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Norwich is a city of astounding literary talent that can be traced back to the 14th century writing of Julian of Norwich. Other talented writers who have called Norwich home include: Thomas Browne, Thomas Paine, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Emma Healey, Eimear McBride and Sarah Perry.
Norwich is a city of firsts. The first book written by a woman in the English language came from the pen of Julian of Norwich in 1395 (Revelations of Divine Love). In the 16th century, the first poem in blank verse was written here by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. The first English provincial library (1608) and newspaper (1701) followed, and Norwich was also the first place to implement the Public Library Act of 1850. More recently, in 1970, Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson founded the UK’s first Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia (UEA), of which Ian McEwan was the first graduate. In 2006, Norwich became the first and only UK city to join the International Cities of Refuge Network, which was formed to promote free speech and support imperilled writers.
The Jarrold family arrived in the East of England in the 17th century, bringing with them the art of printing and bookbinding. They published Anna Sewell’s global bestseller Black Beauty in 1877. Today, Norwich remains the regional centre for publishing and is home to five per cent of the UK’s independent publishing sector, including Propolis, Galley Beggar, Gatehouse, Eggbox and Strangers Press.
The Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, housed in the magnificent Forum in the heart of Norwich, is one of the most-visited public libraries in the UK and lends more items than any other in the country. Across the city, the Cathedral Library is home to more than 20,000 books (some dating back to the 15th century), while the John Innes Centre hosts a remarkable collection of natural history and rare books.
Norwich is home to the National Centre for Writing (formerly Writers’ Centre Norwich), which opened recently after a period of renovation and redevelopment in the medieval Dragon Hall. The National Centre for Writing celebrates and explores the artistic and social power of creative writing and literary translation. As the organisation behind the City of Literature bid, the Centre is in charge of how the accreditation is used and the city’s programmes developed under the UNESCO umbrella.
In 2019, with Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, Norwich hosted the country’s first meeting of the UCCN Cities of Literature. Delegates from all of the newly enlarged UNESCO Cities of Literature subnetwork have been invited to the UK.
The cities hosted a two-stage gathering, delivered a programme of work, supported their meeting of city and sector partners to talk about the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and its value to other English cities and to plan future collaborations involving home artists and practitioners.
Norwich curated opportunities to exchange best practice as UNESCO Cities of Literature, ensuring that UNESCO Cities of Design, Film, Music and Media Arts were engaged in the meetings too, to promote cross designation partnerships and thinking.
Norwich also engaged city, municipal, artistic and funding partners in the programme and aimed to further and deepen the integration between UNESCO Cities of Literature strategically and practically.
CITY OF LITERATURE AT NORFOLK & NORWICH FESTIVAL
Each May, the National Centre for Writing programmes and produces the City of Literature strand of Norfolk & Norwich Festival. Being a UNESCO City of Literature is much more than being a city of books - Norwich is also a city of words, ideas and debate. As a tool to fight for what we believe in, to offer room for the exploration of ideas and the liberation of our imaginations, to unite and divide people - words are powerful. And, in the right hands, they are indeed extraordinary. Each year our programme reflects the outstanding talents of Norwich and Norfolk alongside guests from around the world. Past guests include Will Self, Simon Armitage, Tracey Thorn, Irvine Welsh, Alan Moore, Ali Smith and many others.
NOIRWICH CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL
The Noirwich Crime Writing Festival is the region’s largest annual celebration of crime writing and one of the fastest growing literary festivals in the UK. Each year, the world’s biggest crime writers—and their fans—converge on the medieval streets of Norwich UNESCO City of Literature for a four-day spectacular of readings, Q&A panels, book signings and creative writing workshops.
The 2018 festival took place on 13 – 16 September across three city venues: the National Centre for Writing, the University of East Anglia and Jarrold. Special guests included Val McDermid, Benjamin Black (John Banville), Paula Hawkins, Nicci French, Robert Thorogood, Sophie Hannah, Sarah Pinborough and many more.
The National Centre for Writing has offered a number of residency opportunities in recent years, and is currently working with a range of partners to develop its 2019 residency programme at the National Centre for Writing.
Some of the residencies will be more focused on time to write and translate, taking advantage of the tranquil surroundings here in Norwich. Other residencies will include the opportunity to take part in other literary activities, workshops and events, and to meet other writers.
Writers and translators in residence are accommodated in the newly-refurbished two-bedroom cottage at Dragon Hall. Residents will have access to the writers’ colony and library in the main building.
Current residency opportunities are posted at the National Centre for Writing website.