Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Designated in 2004, the capital of Scotland has a population of almost 500, 000.
It is the birthplace and home to world-famous writers, poets and playwrights including Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Walter Scott (Waverley), and JK Rowling (Harry Potter). It has its own Poet Laureate, the Edinburgh Makar.
Publishing Scotland, the national body for publishers, as well as award-winning independent publishers are based here. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the world’s largest literary festival of its kind, lasting for two weeks each August. The Festival welcomes approximately 800 authors from nearly 40 countries and brings in over 225, 000 visitors annually.
In 1725 the world’s first circulating library opened in Edinburgh and today free public libraries can be found all over the city. Furthermore, the National Library of Scotland, the leading centre for the study of the Scots, the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish Storytelling Centre can all be found in Edinburgh. The city is home to unique institutions fostering literacy, including the Scottish Book Trust, a national agency for readership development and the Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court, which commemorates Scottish writers and poets.
There are over 50 bookshops in Edinburgh. They are key venues for a vibrant culture of readings, literary cabarets and workshops happening year round. Edinburgh has four universities, including the University of Edinburgh, established in 1580 and which is one of the United Kingdom’s oldest. The city is also the first in the world to appoint a Regius Professorship of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (English Literature).
As a Creative City of Literature, Edinburgh envisages:
- working closely with other Cities of Literature on a range of projects which aim at sharing knowledge and expertise, and which provide training and capacity building;
- continuing its mission to support cities around the world as they prepare their bids to become UNESCO Cities of Literature;
- hosting meetings (physical and online) to bring together Cities of Literature;
- working with multiple art forms, as illustrated recently in a collaborative initiative with Glasgow, a UNESCO City of Music, on a song lyrics project, “Let’s Get Lyrical”; and