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Dunedin submits UNESCO City of Literature bid

Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand has applied to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull submitted the city’s application to UNESCO on 19 March. Cull said in a statement that a steering committee and an advisory board of writers, librarians and academics have been working on the bid for the past six months.

‘I’m inspired by this bid. Dunedin has been, and still is, home to many of New Zealand’s well known writers, poets and playwrights, so it should be New Zealand’s City of Literature. Thomas Bracken, who wrote New Zealand’s national anthem, Charles Brasch, founder of the country’s foremost literary journal, internationally acclaimed writers Janet Frame and James K Baxter and current and former poet laureates Vincent O’Sullivan, Hone Tuwhare, Brian Turner and Cilla McQueen have all called Dunedin home,’ said Cull.

To be approved as a UNESCO City of Literature, a city has to meet a number of criteria around its publishing, literary events and educational programs, as well as its libraries, bookstores and other cultural centres. Only one city in each country can be recognised as a City of Literature.

According to the council’s statement, ‘six existing Cities of Literature have all supported Dunedin’s bid including Iowa City, Reykjavik, Dublin, Melbourne, Norwich and Edinburgh’. Krakow in Poland was named the seventh UNESCO City of Literature in October 2013.

Phillippa Duffy, general manager at the University Book Shop (UBS) Otago in Dunedin, told Books+Publishing that she welcomed the city’s bid. ‘Anything that puts the international spotlight on Dunedin’s literary heritage, as well as highlights the works of our contemporary Dunedin writers is good for books and bookshops. It is great for our own local residents, to remind them of the amazing writers we have and have had in Dunedin, and for travellers from other parts of New Zealand, and the world, who are interested in this type of cultural tourism.’

Duffy said that Dunedin’s book community ‘already works in a tremendously collegial way’. ‘This includes UBS Otago, one of the country’s largest independent bookshops; the public libraries; University of Otago’s Centre for the Book and English and Irish and Scottish studies departments; the Hocken Museum; and myriad second-hand bookstores, and chain stores. Dunedin also has a new Writers and Readers Festival this year, which is important for any city to provide a platform to promote its own writers, and those from other places around the world.’

The city’s bid will now be assessed by UNESCO and the outcome will be announced in November. To find out more about the UNESCO Cities of Literature, click here.



Category: Local news