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Norwich named UNESCO City of Literature

11th May 2012

Norwich has been named the UNESCO City of Literature, becoming the first city in England and the sixth overall to receive the accolade.

UNESCO has previously bestowed the accolade on Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin and Reykjavik and there was a strong feeling that this year would see the first English city join the list.

The decision was made following a two-year bid process backed by The Writers' Centre Norwich (WCN) and author Ian McEwan, who focused on the fact that the first book written in English by a woman and the first provincial newspaper were both published in Norwich.

In 2007, Norwich became the first UK city to join the International Cities of Refuge Network, while the WCN is set to open a GBP 7 million International Centre for Writing in four years' time, McEwan noted.

'Writers have known for centuries that Norwich is a dreamy city. Literature has deep roots in the beautiful city of Norwich and it was a natural first choice for UNESCO.

'I'm happy too for personal reasons - Norwich is where my own writing life began,' he added.

The city has been defying literary conventions for centuries, with Christian mystic Julian of Norwich becoming the first woman to be published in English in the 13th century when she wrote The Revelations of Divine Love while imprisoned in St Julian's Church.

Meanwhile, local poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, is also credited with giving the world its first blank verse and sonnet form in the 16th century, paving the way for William Shakespeare to change the world of literature forever.

The successful bid will be celebrated during a special event next month at the city's annual Worlds Literature Festival, which will feature talks and readings by authors including Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee and Man Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje.

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