Norwich’s Fine Literary Pedigree

By Lisa Dempster

In addition to being a celebration of all things literary, one of the most exciting things about Melbourne being a UNESCO City of Literature is the potential for us to connect with a network of writers and thinkers from our sister literary cities around the globe. Currently there are five Cities of Literature - Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa City, Dublin and Reykjavik – and recently England’s Norwich put in a bid to join them.

Writing is alive and well in Norwich, home to the oldest and best creative writing course in England as well as the world-leading British Centre for Literary Translation. It is also a City of Refuge for persecuted writers and has the busiest public library in the country. And excitingly for us, arising from their bid to join the City of Literature network, there is currently a delegation of poets from Writers’ Centre Norwich spending time in Melbourne.

The three spoken word poets, Tim Clare, Hannah Jane Walker and Luke Wright, are well known in the UK and are in Melbourne following a busy summer performing solo shows at Edinburgh Fringe. Since arriving, they have appeared at the Melbourne Writers Festival and The Red Room Company in Sydney, and have also been getting some writing done at the writers’ hot desks at the Wheeler Centre. In the last few days of their mostly-Melbourne visit they will be performing and running workshops at the upcoming Overload Poetry Festival.

The Norwich poets’ visit to Melbourne is just one of a series of connections and events that Melbourne has benefited from as a City of Literature. During the recent Melbourne Writers’ Festival there was an Edinburgh Unbound event showcasing writers and poets who work from, and are inspired by, the very first City of Literature; a rollicking great night of discussion and performance. And, in a different vein, earlier this year a delegation of Aussies, including Zoe Dattner from SPUNC, were invited to Dublin Writers’ Festival to talk at a seminar on all things independent publishing.

The impact of the connections we have with our sister cities of literature are varied and far-reaching, and the opportunities for learning and exchange immense. I passionately believe that Melbourne, so far geographically from much of the world, should enthusiastically explore the avenues opened up to us by our UNESCO delegation. The opportunity to take our conversations about books, writing and ideas outside of Melbourne and Australia to like-minded friends in far-flung places is something that we should grab with both hands, and cherish.

Overload Poetry Festival is proud to be including the Norwich poets in their program, including the UK Triple Bill at the Wheeler Centre on Sunday 11 September.

Lisa Dempster is the author of Neon Pilgrim and editor of the Australian Veg Food Guide. She is also the Director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival.

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