Norwich UNESCO City of Literature

In 2012 Norwich became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature and one of only seven in the world, joining Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin, Reykjavik and Kraków as part of an elite international network.

The UNESCO City of Literature accreditation is a well deserved acknowledgement of Norwich’s astounding literary heritage, contemporary strengths, and future potential, and unsurprisingly there is a thriving literary scene for all to get involved with.

Upcoming Events In Your City Of Literature

Brave New Reads
, a reading programme designed to introduce readers to some of the most exhilarating and entertaining writing from around the world, kicks off in May

To keep an eye on all of our events, including our creative writing workshops, and author events, visit the Writers’ Centre events page. 

What's going on? Current Plans 

-We welcomed Margaret Atwood, UEA’s 3rd UNESCO Visiting Professor for Creative Writing, to Norwich for two months in 2014.

-We are running the SPACE project, a volunteer-led reading and writing programme, in libraries with Norfolk Library and Information Service and UEA.

- We've developed a £360k partnership bid to Heritage Lottery Fund to explore, celebrate and make accessible Norwich and Norfolk’s literary history for everyone who lives and visits us. More news soon.

- There's also a £300k Cultural Tourism bid led by the New Anglian Local Enterprise Partnership underway, designed to attract more visitors and tourists to Norwich.

- WCN is leading a bid to develop a new £8m National Centre for Writing in the city, opening in 2017.

-We are planning a series of schools and young people’s workshops and opportunities to bring creative reading and writing in to the heart of their lives.

-We are planning to commission new work to celebrate our sister UNESCO Cities of Literature including a commission to make a film of one of the stories in Finnegan’s Wake in 2014.

Want to get involved in literary Norwich now? Please see below for a series of handpicked links and recommendations for you to follow.

You can also find out more about the intriguing history of Norwich and read more of the story in our official UNESCO bid document.

Literary Norwich

Writers’ Centre Norwich led Norwich’s bid for UNESCO City of Literature status. Located just a few short steps away from Elm Hill and the Norwich Cathedral, Writers’ Centre Norwich is a literature development agency, which supports and encourages creative writing in all its guises. Writers’ Centre Norwich has a year round program of literary events, including book clubs, creative writing workshops and author events.

The University of East Anglia
The UEA, renowned for its excellent creative writing and literature departments, holds a Spring and Autumn Literary Festival every year. Visit their website for a full events diary.

British Centre for Literary Translation

Part of the University of East Anglia, the British Centre for Literary Translation (or BCLT) is Britain’s leading centre dedicated to exploring, developing and promoting the best in literary translation and writing from around the world.  BCLT has a wonderful schedule of events which celebrates translation in all its forms. View their events calendar.

Norfolk Library Service
Libraries across Norfolk hold events which range from author events, to reading groups, to children’s book groups. The event schedule is regularly updated on the Norfolk Libraries event blog Take the time to visit the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, which is the most popular library in the UK.

Norfolk Record Office
The Norfolk Record Office collects and safeguards unique archives, creating a plethora of intriguing information relating to Norfolk. The records are accessible to people in Norfolk, and globally.

Norwich Arts Centre

The Norwich Arts Centre is host to a wide variety of events, from music to crafts events, to live literature. Take a look at their events calendar for more information.

Norwich Playhouse

The Norwich Playhouse is a riverside theatre which has a broad range of  programmes showing all year round. Visit their events calendar to view upcoming shows.


Waterstones Castle Street, a large high street bookshop,  holds events across the year, within the bookshop and at local libraries. For more details visit the Waterstones website.

The Book Hive

The Book Hive is an independent bookshop located in the heart of Norwich. The Book Hive holds events with established local authors, as well as internationally renowned writers. All events are on The Book Hive website.


Jarrold is a family run department store which includes an award-winning book department. Their events schedule runs year round, and includes the East Anglian Book Awards.

John Jarrold Print Museum
The John Jarrold Print Museum is dedicated to celebrating and preserving the heritage of printing. The museum is open from 9.30am to 12.30pm every Wednesday.

Cafe Writers

Cafe Writers meet monthly and welcome established and new writers for an evening of literary entertainment. Open to writers of all genres, Cafe Writers regularly hold Open Mic Nights, as well hosting readings from fantastic writers. View their upcoming events.

Norwich Writers Circle
Norwich Writers Circle was founded in 1943 and has been going strong ever since. The Norwich Writers Circle have a year-round schedule of events, which new members are welcome to.

East Anglian Writers

This regional writing group stretches across East Anglia and meets regularly. View their diary.

Literary Norfolk

The Literary Norfolk website presents Norfolk’s literary landmarks.

Local Tourism Websites

Visit Norwich
Visit Norwich provides a guide to all local tourism in the city, advising you on the best activities the city can offer, as well providing an events schedule.

Visit Norfolk

If you’re hoping to explore the Norfolk countryside; Visit Norfolk gives a low-down of activities across Norfolk. There’s also an events calendar.

Enjoy Norwich

Enjoy Norwich includes a mobile app for those on the go, as well as an events calendar for the city.

Why Norwich?

"This is recognition of the world wide reputation of Norwich as a centre for literary excellence, and acknowledgment that literature and literacy are powerful tools which can inspire people and help change lives." Councillor Brenda Arthur, Leader of Norwich City Council

As celebrated in the bid, Norwich has a sensational literary past, from the first battlefield dispatch (1075) to the first woman published in English (Julian of Norwich – C15th), the first recognisable novel (C16th), the first blank verse (C16th), the first printed plan of an English city (C16th), the first published parliamentary debates (Luke Hansard – C18th), the largest concentration of published dissenters, revolutionaries and social reformers (C18th /19th ) including Tom Paine and the 30 million bestseller, Anna Sewell; the first provincial library (1608), first municipality to adopt the Library Act (1850), first provincial newspaper (1701), first British MA in creative writing (the first student of the first MA was Ian McEwan (1971)), the UK’s first City of Refuge (2006) for persecuted writers and a founding member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) and to cap it all, the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library (C21st) has the highest number of visitors and users in the UK – by far. And that’s to leave out an extraordinary roll-call of great writers, publishers, printers and innovators – as many today as in the past – where literature really has been a force for positive change.

Click below to read the full bid document:

What is UNESCO City of Literature Status?

“For Norwich to be named England’s first UNESCO City of Literature is a magnificent accolade, which will further enhance both the literary talent we attract and the literary energy we radiate locally, nationally and internationally.” Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia

The City of Literature status is designated through UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network which aims to harness the creativity of cities by sharing ideas and best practice for artistic, social and economic development through culture.

The status is permanent and was won after a bidding process led by Writers’ Centre Norwich that involved writers, readers and key partners including Arts Council England, Norwich City Council, University of East Anglia, Norfolk County Council, the British Centre for Literary Translation and others.

The accreditation is permanent and non-competitive. It does not come with any financial reward, but the international network of creative cities will support us to develop the accreditation to deliver very real benefits to the residents of and visitors to Norwich over the coming years.

Edinburgh, the first City of Literature, has information and links to all six Cities of Literature.
Read our UNESCO City of Literature press release.

View some photos relating to the Norwich bid.

What Does City of UNESCO City of Literature Status Mean For Norwich and Norfolk?

“Writers’ Centre Norwich and all our partners will work hard to ensure the UNESCO accreditation brings real and lasting benefits to all those who live in, work in and visit our city and region.” Chris Gribble, Chief Executive, Writers’ Centre Norwich

The National Centre for Writing
The flagship project of Norwich’s UNESCO City of Literature programme is the National Centre for Writing, a partnership between WCN, the University of East Anglia and others in a building granted by Norwich City Council. In April 2012 the project, designed to become a world leading centre for creative writing, won a development grant of £340,000 to allow WCN to develop its proposal for the creation of an national centre for writing. Once successfully completed, this will enable them to make a further bid for up to £2,660,000.

The NCW’s physical realisation will result from the renovation and development of Gladstone House, a C18th Grade II Georgian house, granted to WCN by Norwich City Council on a 25 year lease. Our proposals create teaching, conference, event, office and writers’ spaces in the main house, two Writers in Residence apartments in the upper floors of the annexe, a café, and a 120 seat events space in a new structure in the garden. Arts Council England, University of East Anglia and Norfolk County Council are partners in the project that is due to open to the public in April 2016.

Leading the way for literature in the UK, the National Centre for Writing supports inspiration, enjoyment, understanding and transformation through creative writing, reading, translation and education in a world class literary city.

For a visualisation of the completed building please see:

Find out more about the National Centre for Writing.

Other UNESCO Projects
Norwich UNESCO City of Literature accreditation will also enable WCN and its partners to increase economic investment in the region through an innovative and popular tourism offer based on Norwich’s literary heritage; promote international connections, development and collaboration and engage young people with reading and writing in new and exciting ways.

One of the first UNESCO projects will be the publication of new translations of England’s only mediaeval Hebrew poet, Meir ben Elijah, whose work lay lost in the Vatican Archives for many centuries and whose voice speaks to us directly and remarkably from 13th century Norwich.

Celebrating the Award
Writers’ Centre Norwich will celebrate the UNESCO accreditation in June 2012 this year when it welcomes Nobel Laureate Professor J.M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje, Jeanette Winterson and many other outstanding writers from around the world to its Worlds Literature festival.

Who Runs Norwich UNESCO City of Literature?

‘This is an exceptional and thoroughly merited accolade for Norwich, reflecting both the city’s literary history and its vibrant and unique literary scene. UNESCO’s endorsement will allow Norwich to consolidate its international reputation as a city of literature, and forms a cornerstone of the proposals for the new International Centre for Writing.' Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England.

The Norwich UNESCO City of Literature accreditation is owned by Norwich City Council and the agreement is signed by Norwich’s Lord Mayor. As the organisation behind the bid, Writers’ Centre Norwich is in charge of how the accreditation is used and the programmes developed under the UNESCO umbrella.

WCN (and the National Centre for Writing) will develop a programme of UNESCO City of Literature events and activities that are badged with and backed by the accreditation.

How do people get involved with Norwich UNESCO City of Literature?

If people have ideas of their own, or would like their organisations to be involved in UNESCO City of Literature activities, they should, in the first instance, send an e-mail to Chris Gribble – Writers’ Centre Norwich’s CEO at

About Writers’ Centre Norwich and UNESCO City of Literature

Writers’ Centre Norwich led the bid for UNESCO City of Literature status. We are an agency interested in the artistic and social power of creative writing, and the work we do reflects this:

•    We help aspiring and emerging writers through successful workshop and professional development schemes
•    International writers find new audiences through us and readers are introduced to new works and ideas
•    Major events with writers including Ian McEwan, J.M. Coetzee and Martin Amis inspire, whilst the Worlds roundtable Salon allows a rare space for writers to think and reflect together
•    In June 2007 Norwich became the UK’s first City of Refuge, and the programme runs through Writers’ Centre Norwich. The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an international association which exists to support writers at risk of physical and economic persecution and to offer them a place of safety and support, as well as time to write
•    We are developing the plans for a new National Centre for Writing in Norwich

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"This is absolutely brilliant; a fantastic achievement and an incredible honour for Norwich and Norfolk. Our writers have made enormous contributions to literature, politics and social reform over the course of hundreds of years; contributions that have gone on to change the world. This international award not only recognises their outstanding efforts but also puts Norwich and Norfolk on the global stage, and gives us great hope for the future in that we can inspire, encourage and do everything possible to help our writers of tomorrow."
Barry Stone, Cabinet Member for Cultural Services at Norfolk County Council

 “Coming to Norwich to take up my post as Professor of Creative Writing was like coming home [...]It is truly one of the homes of literature in Britain. And not at all just on account of the 40-year history of creative writing at the University of East Anglia where I teach. There are hundreds of writers living in the city, fabulous bookshops and, more importantly, thousands of readers. It’s great that this honour from UNESCO will put Norwich on the world stage.”
Giles Foden, Writer and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and author of The Last King of Scotland

With thanks to all of our bid partners, including our stakeholders: