Recently, I heard the news that Exeter has been successful in progressing through the first phase of a process to become a UNESCO City of Literature.
Just four UK cities can gain endorsement from UNESCO’s UK Commission to join the Creative Cities Network and Exeter was one of these. The city’s application now goes into an international competitive process.
The bid, led by Exeter City Council, is a partnership with a range of organisations, including Exeter City Council, Exeter Culture, The University of Exeter, Devon County Council, Libraries Unlimited, Literature Works, Exeter Cathedral and Exeter Canal and Quay Trust. Literature Works, the literature development agency for southwest England, wrote the bid on behalf of the steering group.
If the city is successful in its application it will enable Exeter to use the prestigious title of City of Literature and produce a four-year cultural programme of activity for the communities of Exeter and the region. The network of UNESCO’s Creative Cities will also enable the city to develop international partnerships and opportunities for the benefit of its communities and the cultural sector.
Personally, as someone who lived in close proximity to Exeter for most of her life and studied at its respected University for a year to gain her Master’s degree, I have to say I wholeheartedly believe the city deserves this status.
After all, it has a myriad of facilities that benefit cultural and literary scholars, including the University and its amazing film studies library and cutting-edge hub.
The vision for the programme is for Exeter and the wider region to be a destination for writers and a city of readers. The programme aims to engage a range of communities in the creation and appreciation of wide-ranging works, both existing and new, and develop a love of reading.
This is a great focus for the programme, as many readers already flock to the West Country as a haven for independent bookshops and stunning literary destinations such as Lyme Regis, the setting for The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Dorchester, the birthplace and lifelong home of Thomas Hardy.
As such, the city deserves to benefit from its prime location and enhance its already exceptional events, facilities and amenities that revolve around culture and literature. This is a stunning city and one that already has many great claims to fame, and adding the status of being classed as a City of Literature will help it to flourish and offer new services for readers that it has not before been able to.
It will also help the surrounding communities. Being set in a rural area, Exeter is bordered by many small towns, most of which struggle for culture, business, tourism and amenities such as transport. If Exeter does achieve City of Literature status then these surrounding towns and villages will also receive greater footfall and be able to welcome more tourists and visitors, resulting in more business and better facilities for locals.
Overall, with the results due in November 2019 we will know by the end of the year if this amazing and culturally relevant city has been granted this prestigious honour. Personally, I think it deserves nothing less.