In 2012, Norwich became the UK’s second UNESCO City for Literature joining Edinburgh in the prestigious global network of cities recognised by UNESCO for their literary excellence.
Now Kolkata, Western Bengal State, is hoping to become India’s first UNESCO Creative City, prompting an Indian ministerial visit to Norwich’s leading literary organisations to learn more about the city’s UNESCO bid and the benefits of the UNESCO accolade.
The delegation met with Chris Gribble, Chief Executive of the Writer’s Centre Norwich, at the Centre’s new home in Dragon Hall, which plans to become a National Centre for Writing by 2017. Mr Gribble spoke about the many benefits that the UNESCO accreditation brings to the city. In particular he said the prestigious title raises Norwich’s profile to the wider world as a centre of excellence, strengthening applications for funding and attracting visitors to the city.
Mr Bhattacharya spoke about the prospect of Kolkata becoming a UNESCO Creative City and what it would mean to the people:
“The idea of having Kolkata selected as a UNESCO City of Literature, […] would make a lot of Kolkatans very happy. It would also provide a huge boost to young people working in the arts, not just in literature but also in related activities”.
The two cities plan to work together on a new literary project called Writing Places, which has recently received £26,900 in Arts Council England funding. Although the cities are miles apart, Mr Gribble highlighted several complementary and constructive parallels worth exploring:
“Kolkata is in the east of India and Norwich is in the east of England, Kolkata has lots of interesting relationships to the river and sea and so do we in Norfolk. We are exploring what’s the same about us and what’s very different about our cities and how that can be reflected.”
Whether Kolkata will be accredited UNESCO Creative City status is yet to be decided, but Mr Bhattacharya’s visit to Norwich highlights the ability of the UNESCO Creative Cities network to facilitate global learning and partnership opportunities that bring positive development to many communities worldwide.