Edinburgh Welcomes Eleven New UNESCO Cities of Literature to the Global Network

by Alison Bowden

31 October 2019

As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is pleased to welcome eleven new cities from eleven countries to its literary family today. They are:

Angoulême (France) Lahore (Pakistan) Beirut (Lebanon) Leeuwarden (Netherlands) Kuhmo (Finland) Nanjing (China) Exeter (UK) Odessa (Ukraine) Wonju (Republic of Korea) Wrocław (Poland) Slemani (Iraq)

On the occasion of World Cities’ Day, celebrated on the 31 October, UNESCO has announced the designation of 66 new Creative Cities, eleven of which will be joining the Cities of Literature Network, bringing it to a total of 39.

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 City Network and the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Chair of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, Ruth Plowden, said:

“We are delighted to welcome new cities to the network of UNESCO Cities of Literature and we are looking forward to working with them to support readers and writers, champion freedom of speech and build international partnerships”

The eleven new Cities of Literature are part of a wider appointment by UNESCO, who have just designated, in total, 66 new cities to the Creative Cities Network under the art forms of literature, design, crafts and folk art, film, music, gastronomy, and media arts. The network’s membership now stands at 246 cities.

UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, today commented:

“All over the world, these cities, each in their own way, make culture the pillar, not an accessory, of their strategy. This favours political and social innovation, and is particularly important for the younger generations”

Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Frank Ross, commented:

“Through the City of Literature Trust, Edinburgh has used its designation as a catalyst for a host of new activity, from high profile citywide reading campaigns to one-day events honouring our famous authors. Over the years we have hosted international exchanges and local residencies, one-off conferences and monthly Literary Salons, and supported our emerging writers. Through this network, Edinburgh sits at the heart of so many languages and cultures, bringing us new opportunities for the future.”

More information about the chosen cities, as well as those designated in previous years, can be found on the UNESCO website in their Creative Cities section.

UNESCO Creative City Network

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 180 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: to foster international cooperation with and between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy. https://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/

The designation process

To join the network cities must prepare a bid which showcases their strength in their chosen art form and their plans for growth and development, in line with the strategic mission of the network. Bids must be supported by the country’s National Commission, and are assessed every two years jointly by the designated cities and UNESCO. The designations are permanent but are monitored and reviewed every four years by UNESCO.