In 2004 we were designated the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, a permanent title celebrating the city’s status as a literary capital. We also a pioneer in the UNESCO Creative Cities network, which has 350 member cities in seven creative artforms in over 100 countries across the globe.
The idea of a City of Literature was devised by our founding members, and there are now 53 cities of literature, spanning 38 countries and six continents. From Reykjavik, Prague, and Dublin to Bucheon, Durban and Melbourne, the network is diverse and global.
We’ve worked hard to build this network, which is dedicated to supporting literature and making links between our cities. Through our organisation, the network brings new opportunities to people working in literature in Scotland – professional development, commissions and residencies. Annually we manage over thirty opportunities and you can read about the most recent ones here.
Our Current Projects
Edinburgh-based author Mary Paulson-Ellis was selected as our Fellow for the Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship, which is funded by Creative Scotland. A writer whose work engages deeply with Edinburgh as a place, Mary Paulson-Ellis has been working with us, focussing on a new writing project and forging valuable creative connections through our UNESCO Cities of Literature network.
Through a partnership with the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University we have appointed Catriona Schofield to work on a PhD researching Literature Houses and the way technology can help reach new, more diverse audiences. When completed, Catriona’s work will be shared with our partners here in Scotland and across our international network.
We want people working in literature across Edinburgh and Scotland to use our Cities of Literature network to support and develop their craft. With over 40 Cities of Literature in the network, residencies are one of the most popular ways to do this. To find out about these opportunities, keep an eye on our socials, be it Facebook or Twitter. If you have questions or a proposal to work internationally, we would love to hear from you via email.
Development and Commissions
Professional development and commission-based projects are on offer through us and our work with the Cities of Literature network. We recently commissioned a piece by local creatives, Donald Smith and Cat Outram, for a literary exhibition in Quebec City and through our connection to Melbourne, two Edinburgh-based programmers will take part in a roundtable discussion in Australia.
Providing leadership, sharing best practice and bringing new opportunities to our creative community in Scotland is core to what we do. We Co-Chair the Development and Integration Group for the Cities of Literature, helping to mentor new cities and diversify our network. We are members of the UNESCO Scotland Group and we Chair the UK Creative Cities Network of 13 Creative Cities across the UK, working closely with the UK Ambassador to UNESCO.
We worked with Visit Scotland to create the world’s first UNESCO trail, bringing together some of Scotland’s most iconic, diverse and culturally significant sites. Literary Edinburgh is proudly featured there. This digital trail connects the 13 UNESCO sites, is hosted on Visit Scotland’s website and has won three awards, with over 75,000 active users of the microsite.
We use some of UNESCO’s key international days to raise the profile of aspects of Scotland’s literary activity to a global level. The ones we celebrate are World Poetry Day (March), International Literacy Day (Sept), Translation Day (Sept), and, World Novel Week (October), and International Mother Language Day (Feb).
To mark 20 years since Edinburgh became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature – we are hosting the UNESCO Cities of Literature Conference. We expect 55 delegates from 35 countries to join us in October 2024 to meet our Scottish writers and organisations, learn about who we are as a literary nation, develop new partnerships and share best practise. We’ll be looking at what it means to be a literary city and how that can and should make a difference to readers’ and writers’ lives.
There are ample opportunities throughout the year to work internationally via the Cities of Literature network, whether it be professional development, a commission or residency. If you are interested in applying for one of the residencies open for applications, do read Sonali Misra’s article on being selected for the residency in Gothenburg and what it entailed. If you want to read more on how to work internationally via Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, read this piece for inspiration.
If you wish to bid and apply to become a City of Literature and want support and guidance from Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve assisted with 17 cities becoming a City of Literature since our successful bid in 2004.
We have a Prospective Cities Guide, which you can download and might assist with any questions you may have, available in four languages.