Introducing Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature (@MelCityofLit #CityofLiteratureInitiative)

Image thanks to: Melbourne City of Literature Office

Do you know that Melbourne is a City of Literature, and the second city in the world to join the UNESCO City of Literature program as part of the wider Creative Cities Network?

Currently there are 42 Cities of Literature across 28 countries in six continents. Melbourne joined the program in 2008, after Edinburgh (2004) and slightly before Iowa City (also 2008).

According to Melbourne City of Literature Office website, all of the world’s Cities of Literature are committed to “the pursuit of excellence at a local level, as well as working together to create lasting global partnerships and cross-cultural initiatives, on top of developing local, national and international literary links”.

This is done by sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices, and through professional and artistic exchange programs and networks. Indeed, since 2014, Melbourne has worked with other Cities of Literature as well as local, regional and national literary organisations to launch a dazzling range of strategic initiatives, partnership programs and international exchanges.

For example, in 2018. Heidelberg and Fabriano initiated a project called the World Poetry Book. Melbourne-based Emily Zoey Baker and Chris Wallace-Crabbe were among 51 poets from 28 cities around the world to contribute to a special anthology titled “Poetic Encounters”,

The book was made of handcrafted, folio-sized paper from Fabriano (a City of Crafts and Folk Art), which was sent via Heidelberg to all Cities of Literature worldwide. After being filled with poems, written by hand in these poets’ original languages, the paper was sent back to Fabriano where the anthology was bound.

The World Poetry Book was presented at the UNESCO Creative Cities Network meeting in Krakow and Katowice in June 2018. It was dedicated to all people worldwide valuing the power and richness of literature and advocating freedom of thought and speech.

Another example of the Melbourne City of Literature Office’s good work is the Virtual Writers in Residence program. In November 2021, poet and teacher-educator Sue Dymoke from Nottingham took up residence in State Library Victoria and developed a resource for young writers, teachers and families using the library’s rich collections.

In November 2022, ten libraries and literary events and organisations across Melbourne will host writers from other Cities of Literature. They will be conducting workshops, composing literary works, and appearing in festival panels and social media channels to connect with local writing communities.

One special event to take place during the forthcoming Melbourne Writers Festival is “Postcards from the Cities of Literature”. On September 6, delegates from Angoulême, Edinburgh, Heidelberg, Kraków, Ljubljana, Manchester, Québec City, Seattle and Wonju will each share ten things about their cities in which readers, writers and books thrive.

And, on September 7, as part of the annual Cities of Literature Meeting, Melbourne will host three concurrent roundtables at State Library Victoria to discuss literary programming, libraries, and reader development. In their conversations with local literary professionals, delegates from around the world will share their challenges of the past five years and their visions for the future five years.

Image thanks to: Melbourne Writers Festival

Note: This article was originally published under the title “Melbourne a UNESCO City of Literature”, Ranges Trader Star Mail, August 23, 2022, P.25.

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