Nottingham became the eighteenth UNESCO City of Literature in December 2015, on the same day as Ulyanovsk (Russia), Baghdad (Iraq), Tartu (Estonia), Lviv (Ukraine), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Barcelona (Spain), Óbidos (Portugal) and Montevideo (Uruguay) joined the Creative Cities Network.
These all join the eleven existing UNESCO Cities of Literature – Edinburgh (UK), Melbourne (Australia), Iowa City (USA), Dublin (Ireland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Norwich (UK), Krakow (Poland), Dunedin (New Zealand), Prague (Czech Republic), Heidelberg (Germany) and Granada (Spain) – to bring the total amount of Cities of Literature in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network to twenty.
Located in Nottinghamshire, Nottingham is well known for the famous hero, Robin Hood, and national literary heroes Lord Byron and DH Lawrence. The city boasts a diverse literary community with wide-ranging literary organisations including DH Lawrence Heritage, Nottingham Writers’ Studio and Nottingham Playhouse and literary festival, Nottingham Festival of Words.
To receive a permanent UNESCO City of Literature designation cities must apply to UNESCO and meet exacting criteria. They must show that they have outstanding literary heritage, a vibrant contemporary scene, and importantly, that they are a city where their sector works collaboratively to grow and develop through their chosen artform, via capital development and cultural engagement programmes.
10 Things to Know About Nottingham
- 1. Famous Writers
- Nottingham is an inspiring city with a strong literary past, present and future, with writers including award-winning playwright, Amanda Whittington, novelist, poet, dramatist and publisher, John Harvey, and performance poet, storyteller Panya Banjoko.
- 2. Romantic Nottingham
- Romantic poet Byron wrote his first poem at age 10, describing Nottingham and his connection to the city. While in Nottinghamshire, he lived at Colwick Hall and Newstead Abbey in and when on to become known as a controversial figure owing to his seemingly liberal political views and was also considered very fashionable.
- 3. Radical writing
- Considered one of the greatest novelists in English history, D.H. Lawrence was born in Eastwood in Nottinghamshire. His most famous novel was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a notoriously controversial novel banned for many years because of its sexual nature. Its reputation had spanned the globe and the novel even has its own chequered history in Edinburgh.
- 4. Award-winning Writing
- Alan Sillitoe is Nottingham’s most famous author of recent years and was made an Honorary Freeman of the city in June 2008. His famous novels include The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, both of which has been adapted to the stage and screen many times since their publication.
- 5. Booklovers Paradise
- Nottingham is a city for creatives and booklovers with 18 public libraries across the city and Nottingham Central Library, East Midlands’ principal library. A host of bookshops and creative event venues are peppered across the city, Five Leaves Bookshop, an independent bookshop opened by local publisher Ross Bradshaw, Books and Pieces, a feast of a little bookshop hiding off the beaten track down a little alleyway, and The Sparrows’ Nest, a volunteer-run library named after local anarchist magazine The Nottingham Sparrow.
- 6. Award-winning Graphics
- A dedicated centre to the graphic novel, Page 45 spread the word comics and the graphic novel far and wide. The centre runs youth literacy projects with presentations, workshops and hosts events with interviews and reviews from comic artists. Page 45 was awarded 2012 Best Independent Retailer in the Nottingham Post Business Awards and went on to win Best Independent Business award the following year.
- 7. Festivals of Words
- Nottingham celebrates its vibrant literary community and spoken word culture of the city with festivals throughout the year. Since 2012, Nottingham Festival of Words has welcomed some 125 writers including Ali Smith, Will Self, Bernadine Evaristo, Daljit Nagra, Maurice Riordan and many more. Organised by Nottingham Playhouse, NEAT (Nottingham European Arts Theatre Festival) showcases world-class literature, theatre, dance, digital work, music, spoken word and talks. The D.H. Lawrence Festival celebrates Lawrence as a regional and international writer and is organised in by Nottingham City Council, D.H. Lawrence Heritage, University of Nottingham and local history groups.
- 8. Dawn of the Unread
- Bringing together the past, present and future in quite a different way, chair of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, James Walker, is the mastermind behind digital project, Dawn of the Unread, an interactive graphic novel. Combining Nottingham’s literary past with technologies of the ‘future’ to encourage reluctant readers of the present, each comic brings to life one of 16 literary figures from Nottingham’s past with libraries and reading as core themes.
- 9. Online Literary Community
- Nottingham created the world’s first online literary community with the trAce Online Writing Centre. Set up in 1995, trAce hosted an international community that allowed contributors to generate a body of innovative creative work. Now an ongoing archive resource, trAce was produced as part of Writers for the Future, commissioned by The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA,) and delivered by Nottingham Trent University and De Montfort University.
- 10. Writer support
- The city hosts writing and literary conferences and conventions run by Writing East Midlands, Nottingham Trent University and University of Nottingham encouraging creative inspiration and expertise. The Writers’ Conference started in 2014 and gives 150 regional writers access to industry professionals such as practitioners, publishers and agents, helping writers to expand contacts, build national and international partnerships, and improve their professional skills.