The City of Reykjavik was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in August 2011, the fifth city in the world and the first non-native English speaking city to receive the honorary title.
Reykjavik joins four other UNESCO Cities of Literature: Edinburgh in Scotland, Melbourne in Australia, Iowa City in the USA and Dublin in Ireland. UNESCO Cities of Literature are part of the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, of which Reykjavik is the 29th member.
UNESCO’s official letter of nomination states that “The City of Reykjavik boasts foremost an outstanding literary history with its invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature, the Sagas, the Edda and the Íslendingabók, Libellus Islandorum (Book of Icelanders). This longstanding tradition has naturally cultivated the city’s strength in literature education, preservation, dissemination and promotion. For a city of small population, approximately 200,000 habitants, Reykjavik is especially appreciated for demonstrating the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape, the contemporary society and the daily life of the citizens. With the support of the central government of Iceland, the city continues to pursue its development plans in support of languages, translation initiatives as well as international literary exchanges.”
“I heartily celebrate Reykjavik’s selection as a UNESCO City of Literature. This is a great honour for Reykjavik. Icelanders are known world wide for their art and culture and this title confirms just how valuable our cultural heritage is. Of all our resources our culture is the most valuable”, says Mayor Jon Gnarr.
The UNESCO designation signals a tremendous opportunity not only for the city’s growing cultural scene but also for the island’s tourism industry. In recent years the City of Reykjavik has put great emphasis on the intrinsic link between culture and tourism. No doubt the designation will give the city’s creative energy a boost and inspire new and exciting projects in the field of literature and other arts. New products and services within cultural tourism will also strengthen the image of the city as a destination worth visiting the whole year round.
Ali Bowden, Director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, states: “We are absolutely delighted that Reykjavik has joined our UNESCO City of Literature network. Reykjavik’s designation as a City of Literature will help people everywhere appreciate the city’s fascinating literary heritage. The designation will help the city grow and develop its cultural offering, as it has done in Edinburgh, and Reykjavik will be a valuable partner in our international Creative City network.”
As a UNESCO City of Literature, the City of Reykjavik will aim to further enhance literary life in the city through cooperation with key partners in the field, by establishing a Centre for Literature and by creating a platform for diverse literary events. Such enhancement is also the impetus behind the city’s plans to promote projects aimed at stimulating reading and cooperation within the educational system. Special emphasis will be laid on strengthening the image of Reykjavik as a city of literature both domestically and internationally, literary trails will be marked in both Icelandic and English, and literary walks will continue to be offered in Icelandic and English and made accessible in digital format.
The City of Reykjavik sees the honorary title as above all an endowment for the whole community and stresses good cooperation among all parties involved in literature. The city is also enthusiastic about the possibility of strong cooperation with other UNESCO Cities of Literature. The title is a permanent one, under the condition that the city fulfills its commitments relative to the title.
Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature is under Reykjavík City’s Department of Culture and Tourism.