Dunedin Thrilled to be UNESCO City of Literature

Dunedin has stepped onto the international stage after being designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.

Mayor of Dunedin Dave Cull says, “This announcement puts our city on the world map as a first-class literary city. We keep honourable company; other cities bestowed with City of Literature status include Edinburgh, Dublin, Iowa City, Melbourne, Reykjavik, Norwich and Krakow.”

Dunedin is one of four newly designated Cities of Literature – the other three being Granada (Spain), Heidelberg (Germany) and Prague (Czech Republic).

Dunedin’s application was driven by a steering committee and an advisory board of writers, librarians and academics from a range of Dunedin institutions. The bid highlighted the quality of the city’s considerable literary heritage, its diverse combination of literary events, businesses, institutions and organisations, plus its thriving community of writers, playwrights and lyricists. Dunedin’s City of Literature online presence,  www.cityofliterature.co.nz, showcases Dunedin as a literary city; taking pride in its past, illustrating its vibrant present, and designing for the future. The site presents 10 fast facts about Dunedin’s literary strengths. These strengths align with UNESCO’s list of criteria and characteristics a city must have to be considered a candidate for joining its Creative City network.

“Being a City of Literature offers Dunedin many benefits,” Mr Cull says. “It emphasises our cultural strengths to an international market, not just for cultural tourism but also for attracting tertiary students and new residents by emphasising what a creative place Dunedin is to live. It gives us another point of difference.

“At a local and national level, this announcement will have cultural and economic benefits. The value of having a rich culture is evidenced by events such as this year’s inaugural Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival which had an unexpected number of sold out events and attracted authors with an international profile.

“Being a City of Literature is a great brand and a very fitting one, given that Robbie Burns’ statue presides over our central city.”

UNESCO established the Creative Cities Network to develop international co-operation among cities and encourage them to drive joint development partnerships in line with UNESCO’s global priorities of ‘culture and development’ and ‘sustainable development’. There are now 69 cities in the network, each reflecting one of UNESCO’s seven Creative City themes: folk art, gastronomy, literature, design, film or music. Dunedin is New Zealand’s first city to be appointed to the Creative City network.

Dunedin City Council Group Manager Arts and Culture Bernie Hawke has assisted with developing Dunedin’s bid since 2010. He says six of the existing Cities of Literature backed the bid and Dunedin was particularly grateful for the ongoing support of its sister city Edinburgh. The bid was also supported by Dunedin’s sister city Shanghai (City of Design) and Sydney (City of Film).

“We have been wonderfully supported internationally and locally by writers’ groups and trusts, and national writing and publishing associations, as well as the University of Otago.”

In her letter of support for the bid, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne says, “The designation would signal to the world that Dunedin values and builds on its rich cultural heritage, supports the life of the mind and treasures its books and writers.”

Mr Cull says one of Dunedin’s first steps as a City of Literature will be to organise an international conference related to literary culture.

Mr Hawke adds that, even if the bid had not been successful, the partnerships built locally and with other Creative City contacts offer so much potential for cultural events and collaborations that the attempt alone has been more than worthwhile.

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