Nottingham enters bid to become a UN City of Literature


Nottingham officially launched its bid to become a United Nations City of Literature last week.

Writers, supporters from both universities, and the city council met at an event hosted by the Lord Mayor at the Council House on Thursday evening.

The bid was launched back in April at Bromley House Library, an independent subscription-based library, in Angel Row in the city centre. It is the brainchild of library president and playwright Stephen Lowe, who wanted a way to mark the library’s bicentenary in 2016.

The bid will celebrate Nottingham’s literary heritage – which includes links to Lord Byron, DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe – as well as current and future writers.

Performance poet Andrew Graves – who goes by the pen name Mullet Proof – told the BBC at the time of the launch that Nottingham’s literary scene needed celebrating and nurturing.

“The one thing that frustrates me about Nottingham [is that] we don’t make enough of our literary heritage,” he said.

“I sometimes lie awake at night and wonder, ‘what would Manchester do if they had DH Lawrence or Alan Sillitoe?’ I just don’t think we make enough of it.”

Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Writers’ Studio and the Nottingham Post are also backing the bid. The city must show wide consultation and support and demonstrate other things, including a quality and diversity of literature schemes, academic institutions specialising in literature and online platforms dedicated to creative industries.

Shelagh Gallagher, of Bromley House Library, told the BBC in April it would encourage work in schools and inspire children, helping to combat Nottingham’s low literacy rates.

“The potential for activities [if we get it] is marvellous,” she said.

“We want people and children in Nottingham to see they are part of a city of literature and to find out about our heritage. But it is more about the next generation, ways of increasing literacy through enjoying being part of Nottingham’s heritage.”

Pippa Hennessy, development director at the writers’ studio, said at the time of the launch that successful bid would be hugely beneficial to Nottingham. She told the Nottingham Post: “We really would love to become part of the Unesco Creative Cities Network. It would mean we could link up with other cities and find out how best to use the title.

“It would send a global message that we have got excellent literature going on here and not just a great literary heritage

Sharon Scaniglia, arts officer at the city council, told the Nottingham Post in April: “Benefits for Nottingham will be many as we build on our cultural heritage with literature as another theme in the city to attract tourism.

“We have some excellent writers who can stand firmly on the groundwork achieved by the city’s past great writers.

“Being a Unesco City of Literature would spur on even more writers, inspire young people to read and write, which in a longer term will help with children’s literacy.”

There are currently seven UN Cities of Literature ( – Edinburgh, Dublin, Norwich, Melbourne, Iowa City, Reykjavík and Krakow.

A decision is expected by November 2015.

Joanne Dernie