Iowa City hosts UNESCO Cities of Literature conference

“It’s been an outstanding conference and an exceptional experience. It is incredible how unique our cities are and how much we can learn from each other.” – Justyna Jochym, Chair of the UNESCO Cities of Literature and Head of Development & International Cooperation, Krakow UNESCO City of Literature

 36 delegates representing 23 countries came together for a four-day conference showcasing activity in their literary cities and to discuss projects and potential collaborations for the future. The conference ran from the 3rd to the 6th April and it was the first time this prestigious international forum had taken place in the USA. Literature is one of the seven fields that form the UNESCO Creative City Network which currently consists of 180 members from 72 countries.

Representatives from 23 of the 28 designated UNESCO Cities of Literature attended the meeting: Baghdad, Bucheon, Dublin, Durban, Edinburgh, Granada, Heidelberg, Iowa City, Lillehammer, Ljubljana, Lviv, Manchester, Melbourne, Milan, Norwich, Nottingham, Obidos, Prague, Quebec City, Reykjavik, Seattle, and Tartu, with the meeting chaired by Krakow City of Literature.

“Our two goals for the meeting were to send our guests home with a greater understanding of Iowa City as a City of Literature and connections with the people who are doing that work, and to raise awareness for our designation and enthusiasm for the people and projects who earned that designation,” said John Kenyon, Executive Director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. “It was tremendously successful on both counts. It was heartening and instructive to see our city through the eyes of our guests from around the world, to experience their awe and wonder, and to re-experience things we might otherwise take for granted.”

Iowa City was designated the third UNESCO City of Literature in 2008 and welcomed the guests to their city with a reception at the Old Capitol where they were welcomed by members of the community, including Congressman Dave Loebsack and University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld.

The delegates met with representatives from across Iowa City’s literary scene, including the Iowa Writers’ House, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the Center for the Book, and the International Writing Program. The conference took place during Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival, which presented a variety of cultural, literary, and musical events attendees could experience during their free time.

Iowa City welcomed the world to its city the week of the conference, as the United World Wrestling Freestyle World Cup also took place in Iowa City the same week.

The conference and the World Cup received strong media attention with features on the news in KWWL (NBC News in Eastern Iowa) and articles in Little Village (print), the Iowa City Press-Citizen (print), and The Gazette (print).

For more information: Iowa City UNESCO City of LiteratureThe Cities of Literature press pack, The Creative City Network

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