Sunday, 24 August 2008

Melbourne awarded UNESCO City of Literature

We congratulate Melbourne on becoming the second UNESCO City of Literature. The first was Edinburgh, awarded in 2004.

A pioneering live link between the two Cities of Literature is scheduled for Sunday, when three times Booker Prize winner, Salman Rushdie’s event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival will be linked live to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival in Australia. Nam Le, the renowned Vietnamese born author, based in Melbourne, will be broadcast to an audience in Charlotte Square live from his event in Australia.

Ian Rankin, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trustee said “We’re really pleased to be linking up with a city on the other side of the world, building a stronger relationship between Edinburgh and Melbourne.”

Catherine Lockerbie, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said “I’m delighted that Melbourne is joining Edinburgh and especially pleased that we will be celebrating the designation at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with the world’s first live satellite link-up between the two Cities of Literature on opposite sides of the globe – a truly exciting prospect.”

According to the UNESCO website, the designation provides a focus for literary activities and attracts prestigious events (such as the Man Booker International Prize for Literature to Scotland). But events aside, Edinburgh is the home of many world-famous contemporary authors, boasting many historic literary legends, as well as an active literary community.

However, it is generally believed that the location will benefit most from the award, through the recognition and attention generated, for events and related business and tourism. According to preliminary estimates, Edinburgh, UNESCO City of Literature was expected to generate approximately £2.2m a year for the city and £2.1m to the rest of Scotland, in terms of income from hosting major new festivals, events and conferences in the city, higher levels of tourism and relevant book sales.

Professor Dennis Haskell of the University of Western Australia and one of the judges in the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, told The View From Here, "Melbourne will use it to draw more attention to its annual Writers Festival, which has been struggling a little. It is a city with a strong writing community.”

UNESCO Cities of Literature work together to build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. Each City will also be dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words.

The UNESCO Creative Cities titles are permanent, non-competitive designations intended to recognise:

* Past - a strong cultural heritage
* Present - vibrant and diverse contemporary cultural scene
* Future - aspirations and vision to develop cultural potential

Steven Carroll, author of The Time We Have Taken, the winner of the 2008 Miles Franklin Literary Award, said the designation confirmed that Melbourne was the cultural centre of Australia: "Melbourne has over the last century inspired some of the greatest works of Australian literature. There is just something about the place."

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