Connections with UNESCO Creative Cities

Cities of Literature & NZ Young Writers Festival: Climate Poetry Here and Now

Writers from across Aotearoa and around the world featured in the special Cities of Literature event in the New Zealand Young Writers Festival 2022: Climate Poetry Here and Now. This thought-provoking conversation, deftly chaired by Rebecca Hawkes, confronted the climate crisis and the impact this is having on young poetic voices. Rebecca Hawkes is a highly respected poet and painter, and co-editor of With No Other Place to Stand: An Anthology of Climate Change Poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand, recently published by Auckland University Press.

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was represented on the panel by Ōtepoti’s Shima Jack, co-founder of the Dunedin Youth Writers Association. Remarkably in 2022 Shima won the Secondary School section of the prestigious Sargeson Prize for Creative Writing for the second year in a row, illustrating what a marvellous talent she is amongst Aotearoa’s emerging writers. This award, first offered in 2019 and named to honour legendary writer Frank Sargeson, is Aotearoa’s richest short story prize and was conceived by writer and teacher Catherine Chidgey and supported by Steve Braunias and Newsroom.

Ōtepoti invited Seattle UNESCO City of Literature to be part of this memorable conversation, and Zinnia Hansen joined the group live on screen. Zinnia is currently Youth Poet Laureate in Seattle. Zinnia’s connection to Ōtepoti was forged with The Heat is On: Young Writers on the Climate Crisis, a digital anthology of creative writing conceived and produced in Ōtepoti and featuring amazing young writers from Cities of Literature around the globe.

Panellist Sinead Overbye is an historian, researcher and writer who lives in Wellington and is a current editor of Stasis, a live digital journal created during lockdown. This year Sinead was Writer in Residence at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Together these four writers brought a vast array of talent and unique creative experiences to the lively discussion.

The audience was privileged to hear a selection of each writers’ poetry as well as poems from writers who had inspired them. The comprehensive discussion that followed these moving and sometimes humorous readings addressed multiple issues including education, population displacement, and geo-political crises. Tackling the question of whether poetry can make a tangible difference, the panellists concurred that the solidarity and wellbeing poetry engenders for writers and readers by addressing specific emotions, anxieties, and challenges is powerful and profound.

Happily the session was recorded for podcast by our friends at OAR FM Dunedin so you won’t miss out, and can listen again here:

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature – World Novel Week 2022

World Novel Week is celebrated each year from 13 – 20 October. First ratified at the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference in 2021, it sets out to encourage appreciation of literature as an expression of human creativity, promote reading, and raise awareness of the important voice writers have when sharing their stories and championing cultural diversity.

For the inaugural World Novel Week 2022, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature is pleased to showcase Winter Time by Laurence Fearnley, a story set in the South Island’s Mackenzie Country where summers are hot and winters harsh. This environment of extremes is a dominant force throughout the narrative, shining a light on Sustainable Development Goal No. 15 – Life on Land. The winter weather is hostile, rendering roads impassable and the old home freezing, with the fire offering little respite from outdoors. This absence of warmth has been a theme of Roland’s life, feeling as he does like an outsider and different from everyone else. Cocooned in a snow-muffled landscape, he is forced to confront who he is and who his friends are.

Laurence Fearnley is an Ōtepoti writer whose novels have received multiple awards. Her short stories have featured in journals and been broadcast on radio. In 2003 Laurence was selected as an Antarctic Arts Fellow through the Artists to Antarctica programme, and she has received numerous other awards and grants for her writing. Laurence was Robert Burns Fellow in Dunedin in 2007 and was named a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2019. UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature mobilise to celebrate the first edition of World Novel Week | Articles

A Dove Flies around Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature

Ōtepoti continues to support Lviv and Odessa Cities of Literature and the people of Ukraine with a tribute to Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko and her famous painting ‘A Dove Has Spread Her Wings and Asks for Peace’ (1982). Prymachenko came to the attention of Picasso in 1937 when he is famously quoted as saying, ‘I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian.’

Hanging in the foyer of Dunedin Public Libraries City Branch, this larger-than-life replica was created as a fundraiser for ReliefAid Ukraine by artists Nick Guilford, Penelope Smith and Kylie Woods of Ōtepoti. The ‘action art’, which was completed in one day on 10 July, was first displayed in the Ukrainian Hub in the Golden Centre and will eventually fly from City Library to Holy Name Church.

The time lapse video showing the production of the replica will be added to the suite of short films featuring breathtaking Ukrainian landscapes and towns that was generously gifted to Ōtepoti by Lviv UNESCO City of Literature.

Cities of Literature Scary Stories Anthology

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature invited poet, performer and critic Claire Lacey to be part of a striking Korean anthology with their moody poem hippocampus sea-horse (kámpos sea-monster).The project was conceived by Bucheon UNESCO City of Literature in partnership with the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. Together they put a call out to the UNESCO Cities of Literature whānau for writing that was unique, preferably ‘scary, horror, spooky or strange’. Claire’s poem, first published in Landfall #239, was a perfect fit as it cleverly conjures up visual imagery in the mind’s eye just like a fantastic film:

Tail curls around kelp
locks tight
against tidepull.

We don’t swim well
that’s the joke
Poseidon’s steeds shrunk
to centimetres:
elegant, delicate, slow … 

Claire Lacey is a Canadian author who lives and writes in Ōtepoti. Their first poetry collection, Twin Tongues, won the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Their second book, Selkie, is a graphic novel collaboration with artist Sachie Ogawa. Claire is currently working on a book of poetry about brain injury, which was the subject of their PhD thesis at the University of Otago.

International Literacy Day

To mark International Literacy Day 08 September 2022, Otepoti UNESCO City of Literature took part in the celebrations by gifting three children’s books to Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature, host city for the annual Cities of Literature Conference. This tradition of koha books began in 2018, and each time books from all over the world are presented to the public library network for families and children to enjoy. 

We chose a beautiful selection of books written and/or illustrated by our own prolific author, David Elliot, who has signed each copy to mark this prestigious occasion taking place in our part of the world.

David’s books are well loved and represent the best literary values for young readers: words, sounds, visual stimuli and playfulness. David is an award-winning author and illustrator in Aotearoa, and he is widely known internationally as an illustrator. As well as these accolades David is a key member of our City of Literature whanau and is very generous in helping new illustrators develop their careers.

Cities of Literature and Planet Earth – The Heat is On

On World Environment Day, 5 June 2022, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature released The Heat is On: Young Writers on the Climate Crisis, a digital anthology of creative writing about the climate crisis facing our planet. Showcasing writers under 20 years of age from across the Cities of Literature Network, the anthology presents many thought-provoking submissions in first languages and in English.

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that included tackling the world-wide emergency that is climate change. As the impacts of the climate crisis intensify with each passing year, more and more young people around the globe are joining the movement for positive change. By leading the discussion around climate change, they are also spreading awareness and motivating others to demand action for a clean and healthy planet.

Kicking off the anthology is a foreword by Vicki Soanes, Secretary General, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO in which she highlights both the values of the organisation and how this body of writing supports these goals. Mayor of Dunedin Aaron Hawkins writes a stirring introduction in which he shares his pride in Ōtepoti Dunedin and our City of Literature status while raising his concerns for future generations as a parent of a young child. An original waiata ‘Huia te aroha’, written by He Waka Kōtuia and performed against the coastal backdrop of Ōtākou Marae, welcomes readers and provides a powerful precursor to the other pearls of wisdom to follow.

Beautifully produced and enhanced by original artworks, collage and photography, The Heat is On was published on World Environment Day for all to share and celebrate. Fifteen Cities of Literature around the globe have joined together to create this special volume. All Cities of Literature will be able to translate the anthology into their Mother Tongue if they wish, to showcase our brilliant young writers as they lead us into the future.

‘The Salamander’ captivates an audience in Leeuwarden City of Literature

Designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2019, Leeuwarden is the capital of the province of Friesland, located in the north of the Netherlands, with a rich maritime history. Despite adopting Dutch as its official language in the 1400s, Leeuwarden is multilingual and its traditional language, Frisian, is still in use in both verbal and written form. The city offers scholarships for Frisian-language literature and playwriting and has a special focus on endorsing minority literature through translation.

Happiness Delayed (Uitgesteld geluk) is an international project coordinated by Leeuwarden where 100 stories from around the world are read aloud in 100 gardens in the city during the annual cultural event called ‘Arcadia’ and then published together on their website. The collaboration was inspired by The Decamerone, written by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century, where under the threat of the Black Death, a group of seven women and three men tell 100 stories to pass the time and to restore a sense of hope and happiness while awaiting their fate.

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature is excited to collaborate with Leeuwarden and proud to be represented by award-winning writer Emma Neale. Emma’s short story, ‘The Salamander’, is our unique contribution to this literary feast. First published in the highly acclaimed collection The Pink Jumpsuit (Quentin Wilson Publishing, 2021), and reproduced with permission, this fascinating family story slides from the realistic into the strange with a dreamlike twist making the tale both believable and fanciful at the same time. The story fits perfectly into the Boccaccio-inspired world where nothing is as straightforward as it seems, and truth may be stranger than fiction!

Emma Neale - Leeuwarden City of Literature

In Conversation with LVIV UNESCO City of Literature

In a special collaboration between Dunedin and Lviv UNESCO Cities of Literature and OAR FM Dunedin, our dear colleagues and friends in Lviv discuss with Jeff Harford life and literature in the face of the invasion of Ukraine. How are Ukrainians doing at this unthinkable time, and how can the power of books and words strengthen our connections?

Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and referred to as ‘the place of the unbreakable poet’. We learn how the city is coping and of the resilience and determination it takes to ensure voices are heard during this time of invasion. Constrained by funding necessarily being redirected to defend the country, the team’s passion for literature bravely continues on.

The city is home to some 174 libraries, and literature has played a significant role in Lviv’s history. Being designated a City of Literature in 2015 has enabled Lviv to showcase its cultural and literary focus to the world and this continues through the unimaginable consequences of invasion. Support for Ukraine through the UNESCO Literature Network has been a big focus of the city’s literary outreach. An example of this is the suite of Ukrainian short films currently screening on The Cube at Dunedin City Library, where viewers get to experience the beauty of Ukraine, its wildlife, agriculture, architecture and much more. (link)

Recording written experiences in these unprecedented times shapes a project designed to capture and to ultimately archive words of fear and hope for generations to come. Not just a platform for known writers, this initiative is designed for any member of the community, young or old, to take part. Restricted in what they can do and hampered by monetary constraints, the Office places public engagement and inclusivity at the forefront of events and programming in Lviv.

Bogdana Brylynska and Anna Khriakova share honest dialogue about the impact the invasion has had on a personal level. Hearing about separated families, missing loved ones, stress, not knowing what the next day will hold, and constant exhaustion and the mental anxiety that brings, is deeply moving. Hearing about the determination in Lviv is compelling. All they ask is for continued support for Ukraine and for people to read about Ukrainian history, its culture and its passion for independence, in order to have an understanding of what is at risk and why they will never give up.

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature Support for Ukraine

Our dear friends in Lviv UNESCO City of Literature have gifted a suite of some 45 short films, produced with Lviv Public Libraries, Ukraїner and the Ukrainian Library Association, to ŌtepotiDunedin UNESCO City of Literature. Renowned for its rich literary and printing history, this city of writers, publishers and readers has provided us with a unique journey through its vast homeland.

Lviv is a city in western Ukraine, around 70 kilometres from the Polish border. Traces of Polish and Austro-Hungarian heritage are evident throughout the city and its political history is complex. The city has been at the crossroads of East and West since its founding, and throughout much of the 20th century its maps were drawn and redrawn, followed at last by Ukrainian independence in 1991. No one will be surprised by how fiercely Ukrainians value their democracy and freedoms as the pressures exerted by Russia on Ukraine are being watched all around the world.

Visitors to the ground floor at Dunedin City Library can view this comprehensive portfolio of films screening on The Cube where audiences will be in awe of the majestic scenery, pristine national reserves, neoclassical and medieval estates, wildlife, agriculture and traditional arts and crafts that have been preserved in Ukraine. Enjoy Poltavshchyna from above here:

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature poetry contribution 

Slemani, is a city in the east of the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, not far from the Iran-Iraq border. Slemani is recognised officially as the cultural capital of South Kurdistan. Development of Sorani as a modern literary language started in this city in the early 19th century, when many Kurdish poets published their works. Slemani achieved UNESCO City of Literature status late 2019. The city is creating a modern multilingual library and have put a call out to all cities of literature for help in achieving their goals. Also, government agencies and embassies across the globe have been asked to provide an international collection, reflecting each country’s culture and history. A big task indeed!

The chosen building was used as a hospital by the British military forces during WW1. The building is representative of the architecture in the region and renovations have already begun. Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature has been asked to select a poem worthy of display to be hung on the walls forever. We have chosen New Zealand’s Poet Laureate David Eggleton’s ‘Tulips’ from Fast Talker, Auckland University Press, 2006 as our contribution to this exciting development.

‘Tulips’ will be translated into Kurdish and both the English and Kurdish versions will be displayed side by side. This visual spectacle will be very powerful when poems (and translations) from 39 countries are showcased.

Read the poem here

Utrecht UNESCO City of Literature: A year of poetry and a patchwork of poetic languages

red blossoms flower as seasons unfold, children inhale
the warm fragrance forgetting there ever was a blood-longing
gibbous moon or a season of cold or want or desire …

So writes Ōtepoti writer and poet Annie Villiers who has represented Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature by taking part in a year-long initiative devised and led by Utrecht UNESCO City of Literature. A chain poem has been created stretching across the globe, made up of three lines from each participating city within the Literature Cities whānau. Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was thrilled to take part in this poetic celebration timed to be published by Utrecht online on World Poetry Day, 21 March 2022.

Annie Villiers lives and works between Dunedin and Central Otago. She is deeply committed to Dunedin’s literary community, not only as a poet and writer, but also through her involvement in various literature related projects. She is on the board of the historical Dunedin Athenaeum & Mechanics’ Institute and is a trustee of the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival. Coincidentally, Annie lived in Utrecht for a few months many years ago and has very fond memories of her time there. She remembers Utrecht as a beautiful and progressive city.

Here is the link to the chain poem so you can see it magically unfold …

These are Waiting Days

Manchester UNESCO City of Literature International Mother Language Day

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature filmed a special waiata in te reo Māori about our beloved Public Libraries for screening on the City Library Cube and included in Manchester UNESCO City of Literature programme around International Mother Language Day, February 21, 2022.

The film showcases the Dunedin City Council Waiata group that was established in 2002 as a Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori initiative launched by Dunedin Public Library. The group’s kaupapa is to provide waiata support for Councillors and Council staff at civic occasions and events, to develop Māori language skills, to increase awareness of tikanga and Te Reo Māori and to build links with Ōtākou and Kāti Huirapa rūnaka (local iwi). Performing at a wide range of functions including Mayoral welcomes, openings of Council facilities, exhibitions, festivals, policy and event launches, the group works under the guidance of tutors from Ōtākou Rūnaka. The waiata screened was composed by the group in 2005.

View the waiata HERE

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature celebrates International Translation Day

To acknowledge International Translation Day on 30 September, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature produced a short film celebrating the book The Twelve by Alexander Blok: A new translation by Natasha Templeton & Alan Roddick, Cold Hub Press, 2021.

Russian poet Alexander Blok was prominent at the start of the twentieth century, where in St Petersburg there was a revival of Russian poetry. All art forms were considered avant-garde at the time and this poem chronicles the march of twelve Red Guards through the streets of revolutionary Petrograd, with a fierce winter blizzard raging around them. 

Poetry excerpts spoken in Russian and English (by Natasha Templeton and Alan Roddick respectively) are interspersed with evocative woodcut prints by Wayne Seyb and the overall mood of the film reinforces the tragedy of war. Although Blok wrote this poem in 1918 his message of loss and despair is still a relevant reminder of the perils of conflict.

Melbourne shines a light on University Book Shop (Otago)

Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature offered Cities of Literature the opportunity to highlight an iconic bookshop in their city. Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was proud to showcase University Book Shop (Otago) for this project in recognition of the significant role the store plays in the literary ecosystem in Ōtepoti, and the commitment and passion that is reflected in its kaupapa. Its support and promotions for local writers, and belief in the importance of reading for all ages, means that University Book Shop (Otago) is much-loved by the Ōtepoti community of writers and readers alike. Well-known for its links to the University and rich and diverse programmes for children, this is a truly beloved book store.

The article was developed by Liz Flux, Editor at Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature, in consultation with Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature and Phillippa Duffy, General Manager, University Book Shop (Otago). The article provides a wonderful expose of this unique store and can be viewed at Bookseller and Publisher Magazine.

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature: Indigenous Poetry and Perspectives

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature has participated in an exciting collaborative event with Seattle UNESCO City of Literature which will be available to view on YouTube on 2 December 2021. This important recording will showcase indigenous writing and offer highly acclaimed writers Iona Winter, Rena Priest and Sasha LaPointe a unique opportunity to share reflections and personal viewpoints, and to read some of their writings to a global audience.

Iona Winter (Waitaha/Kāti Māmoy/Kāi Tahu), lives in Dunedin and is a writer of indigenous and colonised ancestry, and as a result avoids confining herself to form. Her hybrid work is widely published in literary journals internationally. She has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light, Te Hau Kāika, and then the wind came.

Rena Priest Ce-whel-tenaut is a Poet and an enrolled member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She has been appointed to serve as the Washington State Poet Laureate for the term of April 2021-2023. Her debut collection, Patriarchy Blues was published by MoonPath Press and received an American Book Award.

Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe is native to the Pacific Northwest and draws inspiration from her coastal heritage as well as from her life in the city. Sasha writes with a focus on trauma and resilience. She lives in Tacoma, Washington and is the author of Red Paint, a memoir to be launched in 2022.

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature especially values its ongoing partnership with Seattle UNESCO City of Literature. As with Seattle’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature recognises the vitality, range, and vigour of the city’s literary culture. Seattle supports a wide range of writers, a vibrant culture of indie bookselling, a multi-platform publishing industry, an eclectic array of literary organisations, and a healthy culture of reading and engagement in events and festivals.

Caring for Each Other is a Human Right

Under the UNESCO Cities of Literature umbrella, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature took the opportunity to contribute to the project Caring for Each Other is a Human Right. Launched by Slemani, a city in Iraq, that became a UNESCO City of Literature in 2019. They called for written works of optimism and positivity to help people cope during the global COVID-19 pandemic. These were available online and a book gifted to participants as a permanent record of this creative collaboration.

Dunedin shared the beautiful poem Otago Harbour by Jilly O’Brien. Read it here

Cities of Literature Cookbook

Savoir Faire is a literary cookbook spearheaded by Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, with recipes and words from Cities of Literature around the world. All Cities of Literature were invited to provide a recipe with a literary flavour. Every entry is special and original with beautiful images: some are straightforward with their signature dish tied into literature; others have chosen a literary angle and created a recipe to match. For the Dunedin entry, the City of Literature partnered with Otago Polytechnic’s School of Food Design which created an original recipe inspired by the lyrics of iconic Dunedin band The Verlaines. Östersund UNESCO City of Gastronomy provided a detailed and vibrant introduction with an important focus on sustainability. Savoir Faire is available free online, and can be enjoyed by all Creative Cities with translations welcome:

Cities of Literature Short Play Festival

The University of Otago School of Performing Arts proudly announces the three renowned national and international keynote speakers for its UNESCO Cities of Literature Short Play Festival, on from 13-20 September.

Community Read. UNESCO City of Literature booklist

This Summer we invite you to work your way through this recommended list of great reads from the 11 UNESCO Cities of Literature. 

Dunedin Writer Scores 2016 Prague Residency

Local Dunedin writer and editor David Howard has been announced as the successful applicant for the 2016 Prague residency for writers connected to a UNESCO City of Literature. 

eMultipoetry Project Krakow UNESCO City of Literature

In May a slice of Dunedin editor and writer Emma Neale’s poetry featured on a wall, at a corner of the Main Square and Bracka St, Krakow, Poland as part of a collaboration between the successful poetry project eMultipoetry and the UNESCO Cities of Literature. 

GéoPoétique in Enghien-les-Bains, France, City of Media Arts.

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was represented by Peter Olds at GéoPoétique : exhibition at the Mediatheque George Sand in June 2017 in Enghien-les-Bains, France, City of Media Arts. The exhibition celebrated the city’s Media Arts designation and it was a wonderful opportunity for Peter’s poetry to be showcased during the making of this documentary film.

International Literary Residence in Ulyanovsk 

Literary Tram

The Ulyanovsk Literary Tram is an annual event that had its beginning in 2015. This project is extremely popular globally as it promotes the concept of fusing literature in urban places. 

Manchester’s Online Poetry Exhibition

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was delighted to take part in a virtual exhibition curated by Manchester UNESCO City of Literature, timed to coincide with World Poetry Day 2021 and the upcoming opening of the new Manchester Poetry Library.

Out and About in Prague

Prague, a sister UNESCO City of Literature, has Dunedin up in lights – and we like it a lot! 

Québec en toutes lettres

The literary festival "Québec en toutes lettres" is held each year at the Maison de la littérature which promotes literature and authors, both at home and abroad. The festival has been running for 11 years and incorporates literary shows, public readings, conferences, indoor and outdoor exhibitions, performances and film. 

Due to pandemic concerns the festival held on October 24, 2020, became a virtual 12- hour event. Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature was asked to take part by submitting 10 short videos (2-3 minutes each) of Dunedin poets reading their own works.

Read the World Exhibition Reykjavik City of Literature

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature included an extract from Victor Billot’s poem Monsoon Season in the Read the World exhibition held in Reykjavik City of Literature in 2018.

Taking our Children's Books to Bologna

UNESCO City of Literature Dunedin were offered an opportunity they couldn't ignore: to bid to have a stand at the Bologna Children's Book Fair earlier this month. Ella West reports. 


Kristyna O'Connell, University of Otago HUMS301 Intern for Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature 2018 explores connections between Prague and Dunedin, two UNESCO Cities of Literature. Read the full article here: 

Support for Wuhan UNESCO Creative City of Design

Sixteen UNESCO Cities of Literature worldwide (including Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature) extended best wishes in nine languages to Wuhan, China.

With a 3500 year-long history, Wuhan is one of the most ancient and civilized metropolitan cities in China. Wuhan is known for its expertise in bridge and high-speed rail engineering, resilient urban planning and high-tech industries. 50% of the world’s long-span bridges and 60% of China’s high-speed railways were designed by Wuhan designers.

Creative design is at the core of Wuhan’s cultural agenda, which includes the large-scale Wuhan Design Biennale, focusing on partnerships between art and technology. The city hosted the first New Media, Animation and Game Expo in China, establishing a key cooperation platform for Chinese, Japanese and Korean designers. Hosting the 10th International Garden Exhibition for landscape design attracted the participation of 92 cities and attendances over 2.4 million people.

In January 2020 Wuhan became known as the birthplace of a deadly coronavirus, COVID-19.

The city was quickly placed in a state of quarantine to contain the spread of the virus. This swift and effective response probably saved hundreds of lives.

UNESCO Creative Cities Project ‘Poetic Encounters’

Initiated by Heidelberg UNESCO City of Literature, 51 poets from 28 UNESCO Cities of Literature came together to create a book titled ‘Poetic Encounters’. The book was printed on handcrafted paper made in Fabriano UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art. Fabriano (Italy) has a renowned history spanning centuries of producing superior paper and is dedicated to retaining traditional and innovative printmaking practices. For this collaborative project papers made in Fabiano were sent across the UNESCO cities and selected writers were able to add their handwritten poetry. Completed pages were returned to Heidelberg then on to Fabiano where the unique book was bound.


Dunedin poet Liz Breslin was selected by Norwich UNESCO City of Literature for a virtual writer’s residency, ‘Imagining the City’, in February this year.

During the month-long residency, five UNESCO writers in residence ran workshops and explored connections between Norwich and their own UNESCO City of Literature. Linking up with local writers and working on a range of commissions and projects was stimulating for the residents and shone a light on their cities.

Imagining the City – A new Direction

Dunedin poet Liz Breslin was selected by Norwich UNESCO City of Literature for a virtual writer’s residency, Imagining the City, in February 2021.

During the month-long residency, five UNESCO writers in residence ran workshops and explored connections between Norwich and their own UNESCO City of Literature. As a result of this virtual experiment. Norwich National Centre for Writing produced workbooks encouraging people to explore the city, enjoy great writing and experiment with the writing prompts contained throughout the booklet.

Imagining the City is experiencing another life here in Otepoti, Dunedin where Liz Breslin is mentoring young writers from the Dunedin Youth Writers Association. This group of passionate students from high schools throughout the city are using these same workbooks as a tool to explore and write about the uniqueness of our own place, and their responses to it.

weRculture Campaign April 2020

UNESCO Creative Cities Network invited artists to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with video messages to show solidarity during the global crisis. Originally the brainchild of the Creative Cities music cluster (Mannheim UNESCO City of Music (Germany) and Music Export Poland), with all 7 UNESCO Creative City clusters encouraged to get involved.

Video content addressed six key public health principles essential to stop the spread of COVID-19: Personal hygiene, Social distancing, Symptom recognition, Kindness, Myth Busting and Helping where you can. Videos ended with the words "if we stay at home now, then we will meet each other again in reality sooner - Think Respectfully. Act Responsibly. weRculture." and were posted on Instagram and Facebook.

Dunedin’s Iona Winter shared her powerful and uplifting poem ‘Quiet’ from her book then the wind came. Passionate about Aotearoa, Iona Winter has a deep connection with nature and weaves past, present and future to create a bicultural melding of her world. Iona is of Waitaha and Celtic descent, and lives in Dunedin. Her short stories, poetry and essays have appeared in many New Zealand and international publications. The recipient of the 2016 Headland Frontier Prize, she has performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and in 2018 was shortlisted with the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award.

Iona Winter, Quiet:

Worldly Literature exhibition and Poetry Projections at Vogel Street Party

The Vogel Street Party 2016 spanned 400m of the long street in Dunedin’s heritage district, creating a family-friendly pedestrian space with a carnival atmosphere to showcase Dunedin’s talented artistic and literary communities. As part of the celebrations, visitors were invited to explore the “Worldly Literature” exhibition, large designer dots featuring imagery, words and poems sent from fellow Cities of Literature around the world. 

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