United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently named Melbourne, Australia, a City of Literature, three days before the start of the Melbourne Writers Festival. The honor, given for the first time in 2004 to Edinburgh, Scotland, recognizes Melbourne’s thriving literary and publishing communities.
Melbourne won the international honor after the state government placed a bid to UNESCO in December. Already a hub for international writing talent, attracting numerous international authors to the Writers Festival, and home to a variety of publishing houses, the city strengthened its bid by committing in the past two years roughly $19.4 million Australian (approximately $16,872,176) to fund this year’s Writers Festival and to develop literary programs and activities at the new Centre for Books and Ideas at the State Library of Victoria, set to open next year. The Centre for Books and Ideas will house literary organizations including the Victorian Writers Centre, the Emerging Writers Festival, and the Australian Poetry Centre.
Australian arts minister Lynne Kosky told the Australian newspaper the Age that the honor validates the contributions of individuals working in the city’s literary community, giving “confirmation to them not only about the work they've done but the quality and also the importance of their work to our city.”
"Melbourne is becoming very well known for its creativity,” Kosky said. “This [honor] just indicates that we have breadth in the creativity as well."