Eleven cities join Edinburgh as UNESCO Cities of Literature

by Alison Bowden

31 October 2023

As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, we are delighted to welcome 11 new cities to this global network.

Bremen (Germany) Buffalo City (South Africa) Hobart (Australia) Iasi (Romania) Kozhikode (India) Kutaisi (Georgia) Lyon (France) Okayama City (Japan) Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) Taif (Saudi Arabia) Tukums (Latvia)

In recognition of their commitment to placing culture and creativity at the heart of their development plans and to sharing knowledge and good practices, 11 cities have joined the UNESCO Cities of Literature Network.

The network has grown rapidly since 2004, when an Edinburgh delegation travelled to UNESCO’s Paris headquarters to present the city’s submission. Edinburgh was designated the same day, becoming the founding city of the Creative Cities Network and the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

International activity has grown year on year, which you can read from our recent overview, bringing writers and literature professionals opportunities to share their work internationally and develop their creative practice. We will build on this work by hosting the UNESCO City of Literature conference in Edinburgh in October 2024, marking 20 years of our designation, and looking to build new international programmes for our writers.

Chair of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, Gerald Richards, said:

“We are delighted to expand our network of UNESCO Cities of Literature to include these creative new cities. An idea which took root in Edinburgh has now grown to a global scale and is an enlightened work of international collaboration. At Edinburgh City of Literature HQ, we look forward to diversifying the network to champion those that represent our literature sector.”

John Kenyon, Executive Director, Iowa City - Creative Cities of Literature Network Lead said:

“The Cities of Literature have been working to diversify our network, and we are pleased to welcome so many cities from under-represented parts of the world. We are made stronger as we add new native languages, cultures, and perspectives to our family of cities, and look forward to working with the writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and others in the literary sector of these new members.”

The Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Robert Aldridge said:

“Through the City of Literature Trust, Edinburgh has used its designation as impetus for a host of new activity, from showcasing the work of our creatives in Edinburgh internationally to global writing residencies for our writers in the city. Over the years we have hosted international networking opportunities, one-off conferences and monthly Literary Salons, whilst supporting our literature professionals. With Edinburgh at the core of this network, this news furthers international scope and future opportunity.”

Cllr Val Walker, Culture and Communities Convener said:

“It is inspiring to welcome these creative cities to our ever-growing network. We are, as always, extremely proud of being the founding city of this international cohort of UNESCO Cities of Literature and look forward to working with the new cities in the years ahead, collaborating on projects that will allow us to celebrate the rich and vibrant literature sector that we have here in Edinburgh, and how it can impact on others across the globe."

UNESCO City of Literature Designation

In 2004 Edinburgh was designated the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, a permanent title celebrating Edinburgh's status as a literary capital and pioneer in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which now has 350 member cities in over 100 countries in seven creative artforms. The concept of a City of Literature was devised in Edinburgh by the Trust’s founding members.

UNESCO Cities of Literature Network

In 2004, Edinburgh was the first city to become a UNESCO City of Literature, sparking a global network of creative cities. Now there are 53 Cities of Literature in 39 countries that come together as an international advisory hub for aspiring Cities of Literature. Each city is dedicated to a host of international projects, collaborations, and advocacy for literature.

The UNESCO designation ‘City of Literature’ recognises excellence and places an obligation on cities to nurture and support their artform. The cities collaborate internationally by sharing best practice, supporting freedom of speech and running projects which ensure literature reaches as wide and diverse an audience as possible, locally and internationally.