Two UK cities join prestigious UNESCO Creative Cities Network

British Journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge, at the Manchester Literature Festival

The cities of Manchester and Bristol have been named UNESCO Creative Cities in global recognition of their outstanding contributions to culture and creativity.

Bristol has been named a UNESCO Creative City of Film, and Manchester a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.

The UNESCO Global Creative Cities Network is a global network of cities working towards the joint mission of placing creativity and cultural industries at the core of their urban development to make their cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable. Made up of 180 Members globally, UNESCO Creative Cities specialise in seven fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, John Glen MP said:

“This is fantastic news for both Bristol and Manchester and recognition of their global significance to film and literature. This UNESCO designation will enhance their reputation around the world and help forge strong partnerships with other nations.”

Chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Beth Taylor, said:

“Many congratulations to Bristol and Manchester on becoming UNESCO Creative Cities. Winning UNESCO accreditation is a real accolade, reflecting the strength in depth of your communities in the areas of film and literature. A UNESCO Creative City is not a one-year-only title, but represents a lasting commitment and a long-term opportunity to benefit from membership of the global UNESCO family, working in partnership with colleagues around the world.”

Bristol is home to world-leading media. Aardman Animations set up studios in Bristol in 1976, finding fame with Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep, among many others. BBC Bristol produces globally recognised radio, drama, factual and wildlife television, and is home to the largest production facility in the West of England, Bottle Yard Studios, whose productions include Poldark, Broadchurch, and Wolf Hall. BBC Bristol also houses the globally significant Natural History Unit, spawning ‘Green Hollywood’, the world’s largest concentration of firms producing wildlife content. With 11 community-driven international festivals dedicated to film annually, 10 cinemas, and 2 major universities (University of the West of England and University of Bristol) providing 28 film related degrees, Bristol will play a central role in this global network of like-minded cities.

Sherlock The Abominable Bride. Location Still – courtesy of Bristol Film Office.

Creative City of Literature status for Manchester recognises the transformative impact of its literary heritage upon the city, the nation and the world. Manchester has a strong tradition of radical writing. Engels and Marx worked together at Chetham’s Library; Elizabeth Gaskell wrote her campaigning novels in Manchester; and the Pankhurst Centre celebrates the polemic writings of Suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

Manchester has 22 public libraries, including the recently refurbished Central Library, one of the busiest public libraries in the UK. Lifelong learning, literacy and creative writing is at the heart of this service. This ranges from the Manchester Literature Festival and the National Black and Asian Writers Conference, to prizes promoting writer development and new writing (such as the Portico Prize). In total, 800 literature events take place across the city each year, ranging from translation workshops, open mic events, a feminist book cabaret and radical writing events. The City is also home to Manchester Muslim Writers group – the only dedicated Muslim writers group in the UK – and world-class publishers, including Carcanet and Comma Press.

Hibaq Osman, Sabrina Mahfouz, Asma Elbadawi & Nafeesa Hamid, Manchester Literature Festival

Manchester and Bristol join 10 UK UNESCO Creative Cities: Glasgow and Liverpool (Music), Dundee (Design), Bradford (Film), York (Media Arts), Norwich, Nottingham and Edinburgh (Literature).

Becoming a UNESCO Creative City does not just celebrate the City’s creative output, it also means that Bristol and Manchester must have plans in place to improve access to and participation in cultural life across their cities, especially for marginalised or vulnerable groups and individuals.

Bristol hopes to use film as a way to reduce inequalities and barriers, and promote inclusivity and unite Bristol’s currently fragmented film sector.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said:

“This is fantastic news and a ringing endorsement of Bristol’s position as a world leader in film culture. Our reputation as a diverse and creative city has long helped to attract productions across film, TV drama, animation and of course natural history. I hope this recognition will be a catalyst for bigger opportunities for the city and Bristolians to showcase Bristol as a centre for film.

Manchester intends to use its new international status to provide an opportunity to build on the city’s unique and diverse literary heritage by using reading and writing to bring communities together, support skills development and to cultivate pride and belonging, while building self-reliance and mental wellbeing.

Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said:

“We are extremely proud to become a UNESCO City of Literature, as we recognise the power of words to promote greater understanding, well-being and learning across our proudly diverse city.

“Building on the strong foundations of Manchester’s rich literary history, the council and our partners from the city’s universities and literary community will work together to create a programme of events which gives all of Manchester’s residents the chance to participate in and benefit from this thriving City of Literature.”

Find out about the other 64 UNESCO Creative Cities joining the network on the UNESCO website here:

Banner Photo: British Journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge, at the Manchester Literature Festival