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New report celebrates Exeter’s UNESCO City of Literature status

Published: 5 July 2024

New report celebrates Exeter’s UNESCO City of Literature status Exeter UNESCO City of Literature

A new report has highlighted the benefits of Exeter being designated as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Exeter was awarded the prestigious designation in 2019 and the Exeter City of Literature charity was established at the end of 2021 to mobilise the city around the value of literature and storytelling.

Having the UNESCO designation has brought funding, job creation, talent development and an increase in cultural programming to the city.

In the first four years of having the designation, Exeter City of Literature has raised over £870,000 from public and private grants.

The wealth of literary and storytelling groups and organisations in the city have also benefited from the UNESCO designation.

Highlights between 2019-2023 include:

  • The Exeter City of Literature charity has created three permanent job roles and hired over 45 local freelancers, facilitators, and writers
  • 15 writers, artists, and researchers from international UNESCO Cities of Literature were brought to Exeter to work with the University of Exeter, Bookbag bookshop, Devon and Exeter Institution, Libraries Unlimited and MakeTank
  • Six students from the University of Plymouth were sent to Angouleme City of Literature for the International Comics Festival. Plymouth student James Taylor won the UNESCO Literary Project prize
  • A Visit Exeter campaign to promote the city as a literary destination reached nearly 1 million people across the UK
  • The charity conceived of and launched the Penguin Book Vending Machine in 2023, and over £8,000 of books were bought from it that year
  • 40 trainee bibliotherapists have completed the Exeter City of Literature Introduction to Bibliotherapy Skills course at Exeter College

Anna Cohn Orchard, Exeter City of Literature’s inaugural Executive Director, said: “For over 1,000 years, Exeter and Devon have attracted passionate readers and storytellers to its beautiful surroundings, and never has that been truer than today.

“Today, the literary sector in Exeter is generating more jobs and creative opportunities for residents and visitors than ever before. Exeter City of Literature believes in the power of words to imagine new possibilities for this world.

“By harnessing the transformative power of literature, we will make a lasting impact on our city and beyond.”

Cllr Phil Bialyk, Leader of Exeter City Council, said: “It was a fantastic achievement for Exeter to be recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2019. The status has been hugely beneficial in allowing Exeter to be seen nationally and internationally as a city of reading and storytelling—a place where literature and culture thrive.”

Bindu Arjoon, Exeter City Council’s Chief Executive, said: “There’s no doubt that Exeter’s City of Literature designation has been overwhelmingly positive for the city and I very much welcome this report, which sets out many of the achievements over the last four years.

“Being a City of Literature has encouraged participation in culture and helped to nurture talent and creativity in the city. This has been achieved in collaboration with key partners in Exeter, who share our vision for a thriving city of culture and heritage, and our UNESCO status is something that we are all extremely proud of.”

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