The University of Exeter hosts the archives of works connected to famous writers such as William Golding, Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier (pictured) and Sir John Betjeman.

Exeter celebrates being only UK city to be awarded UNESCO City of Literature status

Exeter has been awarded prestigious UNESCO City of Literature status, it has been announced.

Exeter is the only new place in the UK to be given the status, joining 65 cities across the world to become part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

This is a four year programme and the next step is to apply to the Arts Council for funding.

The prestigious recognition comes from a joint bid from people and organisations across the city – including the University of Exeter, which hosts the archives of works connected to famous writers such as William Golding, Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier and Sir John Betjeman.

Sarah Campbell, Associate Director for Arts and Culture at the University of Exeter said: “It is absolutely wonderful that Exeter has been recognised in this way for its rich heritage of culture. 

“The UNESCO City of Literature status celebrates not only the rich variety of cultural and creative activities  that are crafted and cultivated in Exeter, but also the close collaboration between so many people and organisations to ensure Exeter strengthens its flourishing arts and culture reputation not just in the UK, but across the world.” 

Exeter’s bid centred around 1,000 years of unbroken history around reading, recognising the Exeter Book at Exeter Cathedral but also about what reading and writing means to residents in Exeter.

The Exeter Book is one of the oldest and best-preserved collections of old English verse in the world, and is older than famous texts such as Beowulf.

Cllr Rachel Sutton, Lead Councillor for Climate and Culture, said: “I am absolutely thrilled with the news - it is a huge honour for Exeter that will unlock exciting new opportunities for everyone in the city to engage in culture.”

This is fantastic news for Exeter,” said City Council Leader Phil Bialyk. ”Once again this is international recognition for the city and its cultural offer,” he added.

“Exeter spends more on culture than most other cities in the country. Many of the 66 cities that have become part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network across the world are much bigger cities with larger populations, demonstrating that Exeter is once again punching above its weight.”

Dom Jinks, Director of Exeter Culture, said: ““This is so positive for Exeter. The bid made much of the city’s wide variety of historical assets. But it is actually much more about culture supporting the well-being of everyone in the city today, including those who may not currently see themselves engaging with culture.

“The partnership behind the bid in Exeter was very strong, and this success is down to the strength of that partnership.” 

Exeter’s bid also focussed on ‘cultural wellbeing’ - the power that words can have in all types of setting. At the heart of the bid is the conviction that reading and storytelling can have a profound impact on well-being throughout life. This is reflected in the involvement of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, through its Director, Mark Jackson.

The Centre’s vision is to engage with diverse communities to create multiple ways of sustaining health and well-being across the life course as society seeks to address today’s tough health challenges.

It also ties in with Exeter’s Sport England Delivery pilot work on improving life for all.

The University of Exeter’s Arts and Culture Strategy celebrates the University’s outstanding contributions to arts and culture in Devon and Cornwall. It promotes international cultural relationships and dialogues, through highly-ranked arts research and teaching, practice and performance.

The University’s staff and students create partnerships and engage with the arts community through galleries, museums, theatres and literature festivals.

Find out more about the Arts and Culture strategy on the Arts and Culture website.

Date: 31 October 2019