City's literary heritage

Chris Gribble, Chief Executive of the Writers' Centre Norwich, gives us an insight into why Norwich has been awarded the accolade of a UNESCO City of Literature, the first of its kind in England.

'Oh, do people read books in Norwich?' The words of a literary Grand Dame at a London drinks party in 2009 as I told her about Norwich's bid to become England's first UNESCO City of Literature. She was making a (poor) joke.

However, it made me more determined than ever that Norwich's story as one of the most important literary cities in the UK should become better known.

Why wouldn't we read books? Norwich has been a literary city for 900 years: a place of ideas where the power of words has changed lives.

The first book written by a woman in the English language came from the pen of Julian of Norwich in 1395.

In the 16th century the first poem in blank verse was written here by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

The first written battlefield dispatch is housed in Norwich Castle (pictured top).

Luke Hansard, who recorded parliamentary debate for the first time ever, did so from Norwich.

The first English provincial library originated here in 1608 and the first provincial newspaper followed in 1701, and Norwich was the first to implement the Public Library Act of 1850.

We're also home to the first MA in Creative Writing in the UK (whose first graduate was Ian McEwan).

The list goes on, and today, it remains the regional centre for publishing and home to five per cent of the UK's independent publishing sector as well as being home to libraries, archives, book shops, readings and literary events galore. Come and visit us. The city is packed with literary history and there's always something going on!

Read more about Norwich being a UNESCO City of Literature.

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