International Opportunities from the Cities of Literature Network

Alice Carr
Edinburgh City of Literature Trust

10 March 2023

What do they look like?

As a City of Literature, Edinburgh is part of a network of almost 300 Creative Cities, and 42 Cities of Literature. A key part of our work is using that network to create opportunities for Edinburgh writers to travel and share their work abroad. Over the last year, we’ve had around 40 opportunities for creatives and organisations working in literature in Edinburgh. Of these, 12 were residencies, 8 were commissions and 10 were professional development opportunities. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve done in 2022 and 2023 so far.

After applying to one of our opportunities, Edinburgh-based writer Sonali Misra completed a residency in Gothenburg. Candice Purwin, a comics artist, was accepted for a residency in Quebec City in partnership with Quebec BD. We commissioned Metaphrog to represent Edinburgh in Quebec City of Literature’s project ‘Panel Around the World’, which will see newly commissioned comics displayed in all participating cities.

We also commissioned or shared several artists’ works for network events. For International Mother Language Day in February, Manchester City of Literature organised a chain poem, written in both English and each poet’s mother language. We commissioned Agata Maslowska, an Edinburgh-based Polish poet, as Polish is Edinburgh’s second most spoken language. We arranged for Cat Hellisen to be commissioned by local SFF magazine Shoreline of Infinity for Leeuwarden City of Literature’s Happiness Delayed anthology. We submitted a piece by Gavin Inglis for an e-anthology of horror, folk and ghost stories local to cities in the network organised by Bucheon City of Literature. We selected Donald Smith of TRACS to write about the naming of Edinburgh for Quebec City’s Toponomy project, and have commissioned Cat Outram to make an etching to accompany Donald’s piece, both of which will be displayed in an exhibition at the Cities of Literature conference in Quebec City in September.

This year, we bid for and won the Creative Scotland Gavin Wallace Fellowship, which supports an organisation to host a writing fellowship with a mid-career or established writer based in Scotland. We have appointed Mary Paulson-Ellis, who began the Fellowship in February. Over the next year, she will be exploring what it means to be a city writer, and to write a city, and will be making use of our international network to connect to other writers doing the same across the world.

We also created and hosted a six-month Ukraine Residency, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s IASH department. We invited Elena Marinicheva to Edinburgh between September and January. During her time in Edinburgh, Elena hosted a translator’s lunch at Push the Boat Out, Edinburgh’s international poetry festival, and gave two talks at the University of Edinburgh’s Dashkova Centre. She also published work in PENning Magazine, and is working with IASH to publish After the Third Bell, a collection of Ukrainian contemporary prose and diaries translated into Russian.

We also promoted Scottish writing through several UNESCO campaigns. We celebrated UNESCO’s first World Novel Week in October. As it falls during UK Black History Month, we worked with Lisa Williams from the Edinburgh Caribbean Association to profile Black writers with a connection to Edinburgh. We announced our Ukraine Residency as part of UNESCO’s International Translation Day, emphasising translation as a tool for international understanding and cooperation. For #17BooksFor17SDGs, an annual campaign lead by Iowa City City of Literature, we profiled a different Scottish book relating to one of UNESCO’s sustainable development goals on social media each day for 17 days.

One way we collaborate with the Cities of Literature network is by sharing knowledge through the network. In the last year, we gave Edinburgh librarians the opportunity to join a global webinar run by Krakow, sharing best practice on libraries and technology. We spoke at Wonju’s literature festival, showcasing Lighthouse Book Shop’s work during Covid.

If any of this sounds relevant to you and your work, keep an eye on our social media for future opportunities to work internationally!