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Nottingham bids to become a City of Literature

On the 6th November Nottingham officially launched its bid to become a UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World City of Literature. By becoming a City of Literature, Nottingham would join a group of only seven other cities who already hold the esteemed title: Edinburgh, Norwich, Melbourne, Iowa, Krakow, Dublin and Reykjavik.

The bid is supported by both of the city’s universities, the city council, Writing East Midlands, Bromley House Library, Nottingham Playhouse and Nottingham Post among others. If the title is granted, organisers believe that the status could fetch tens of millions of pounds to Nottingham’s economy since the privilege would help secure grants and extra funding. Furthermore they believe that even more students and tourists would be attracted to the city.

Nottingham’s relationship with literature is rich and historical; tales of Robin Hood still inspire writers today. Nottingham is also renowned for its ‘rebel writers’, Lord Bryon, D H Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe. Byron has been named by some as one of the greatest Romantic poets, yet he also used his status as a member of the House of Lords to highlight the plight of the working classes.  Lawrence was a controversial author since his novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was threatened with censorship and The Rainbow was completely banned. Sillitoe, who passed away four years ago, is known for his gritty real life novels which focus on the lives of the working class. The city celebrates these writers and is proud to call them its own; in fact, you may have noticed the huge banner hung up opposite the entrance to the train station featuring the trio earlier this year:


Whilst clearly focusing on the literary past of the city, the bid would also focus on the present and future, since it will aim to improve literacy rates of the city’s schoolchildren with the help of extra educational grants. The city is also introducing a Literature Trail which is to follow from the ‘rebel writers’ banner. It will include plaques and paving stones in different locations featuring quotes from various writers. A mobile app, created by Mark Shotter of the Alan Sillitoe Committee, will accompany the trail.

The result of the bid is expected to be announced in November next year but in the meantime there’s plenty to get involved in. To instantly help the cause, simply go to Nottingham City of Literature and join the mailing list. Then complete the statement ‘Nottingham is a City of Literature because…’ and add your name (and photo if you wish) to the online wall.

Plus, there are always lots of opportunities to experience the literary tradition that Nottingham continues to uphold. Take a trip to one of the many theatres which include the Nottingham Playhouse, the Theatre Royal and our very own New Theatre situated on campus. Go along to a Mouthy Poets event to hear young people express their opinions through the spoken word or simply read something by one of Nottingham’s writers, be it a novel or poem by the rebel writers, Peter Pan by J M Barrie or the fantastic 2002 novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor.

Hopefully the city will achieve its bid since it certainly fulfils the criteria to become a City of Literature. According to David Sillitoe, Alan Sillitoe’s son, ‘Nottingham has an extraordinary literary heritage, a rebel heritage with writers who broke moulds. This would be a title that is long overdue. It would inspire people.’


Edited by Nicole Jones








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A 3rd year English Literature and Language student at the University of Nottingham.
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