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Message from Director of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature

2022 was a busy year as we started to have events again in person following two years of hosting programmes online.

Our 4 year membership monitoring report was evaluated by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network during this year with the following comment:

The main strength of Dublin lies in the fact that it has all the elements of a successful city of literature: a vibrant literary scene, a competent managerial office, a supportive city council, and a reservoir of creative ideas.”

This year we invited new partners from the literary sector to join the Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Network to steer the city in the next few years with representatives from poetry and literary institutions, children’s books, theatre, publishing, libraries, academia and government. Together, we will create a new plan in 2023 with the aim to inspire people of all ages and cultures to embrace Dublin’s thriving literary scene.

Approximately €60,000 was granted to innovative literary projects from individuals and organisations under DUCoL’s Small Grant Scheme.

Grants were issued to new theatre writing & performance, climate action writing intiatives, Ulysses Centenary events and festivals such as Octocon.  Audiences certainly had plenty of choice with so many cultural programmers offering different strands and it was great to support some of these.

Every year we select a book from an author for the One Dublin One Book programme.   

Nora by Nuala O’Connor, a re-imagining of the relationship between James Joyce and his beloved wife, Nora Barnacle was the choice for this historic year.

As a native Dubliner, Nuala commented, One Dublin One Book was a unique, wonderful opportunity to engage with library users and readers, all over my home city, in April 2022.”

300 attended the flagship event at St. Ann’s Church, Dawson street where Nuala was in conversation with RTE’s Paula Shields.

As life returned to normal this year after the pandemic, it was lovely to experience the range of events at both International Literature Festival Dublin in May and Dublin Book Festival in November with local and international authors  regaling readers.  We celebrated the lives and work of Eavan Boland and Thomas Kinsella, two iconic Dublin poets at the ILFD in May.  Pillars of the City was a special curated programme by Vincent Woods which included a panel of poets and artists complemented by readings from actors Barry McGovern, Jane Brennan and Stephen Rea.

In May, Alice Zeniter and Irish man Frank Wynne were presented with The Dublin Literary Award  by Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland for The Art of Losing. This family saga on migration was nominated by The Pompidou Centre library and shortlisted by an expert judging panel chaired by Prof. Chris Morash (TCD).  Nora and The Art of Losing were the most borrowed books throughout Irish libraries in 2022 illustrating that awards and campaigns do have an impact.

Every year the UNESCO Cities of literature meet together and this year the annual conference was held in Melbourne in early September to coincide with Melbourne Writers Festival. 22 cities met to discuss projects, share proposals on programmes, highlight concerns on under- represented areas of the world on the network, the war in Ukraine and countries with low human rights records. Meeting face to face after 2 years was a chance to get to know people in other countries who are at the heart of literature and ambitious for everyone to access it.

In October, the office supported 2 events highlighting a Ukrainian author, Victoria Amelina who is writing a diary on women looking at war. She was in conversation with the Chair of Irish Pen and author, Lia Mills at Smock Alley discussing her decision to stay in the Ukraine to support the war effort. Victoria also read one of her own stories to Ukrainian children and parents at Pearse Street Library as part of Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival.

In November, it was wonderful to participate in the Dublin Book Festival at Dublin Castle. This festival had a bumper number of events and a lively mix of discussions, interviews, music, trade day, professional courses and activities for children.  DUCoL supported 3 events and were happy to see 400 people over the few days during the festival with a large audience at Library Readers’ Morning where Niall McMonagle interviewed Sinead Crowley, Michelle Gallen, Damien Owens, and John Banville.

In the first quarter of 2023, we look forward to the longlist for the Dublin Literary Award, the annual UNESCO City of Literature lecture with Prof.Chris Morash and the launch of The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes.

This is a city with plenty more stories to be told and we are excited to play a part.

We would like to thank all our partners during the year and all in the literary community for your continual engagement.

From all of us at Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, we hope you have a Happy Christmas and every good wish for 2023.

Anne-Marie Kelly


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