New charity status allows Exeter’s City of Literature programme to flourish

Literature in Exeter has been given a boost with the city’s prestigious UNESCO City of Literature programme gaining charitable status.

Becoming an independent charity allows the programme to pursue various funding opportunities and ensure long-term financial stability.

The awarding of charitable status will also enable the programme to deliver more projects, collaborations and opportunities for the residents of Exeter and Devon.

Exeter was awarded City of Literature designation by UNESCO in 2019 and will hold the status in perpetuity.

In becoming a City of Literature, Exeter joined 295 other cities across the world that have become a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and 42 that are Cities of Literature.

In the last couple of years, the programme has been promoting literature in Exeter via a whole host of initiatives designed to support literacy and reading but also improve health and wellbeing through the power of books.

Cllr Amal Ghusain, Lead Councillor for Communities and Culture and City of Literature Trustee, said: “This is great news and will enable Exeter to continue with its work to encourage more and more people to get involved with literature and experience the joys that books bring to our lives.”

Anna Cohn Orchard, Executive Director, said: “I grew up in Exeter as a child, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I learned Exeter has 1,000 years of unbroken history around reading and the book trade. There are many stories to unlock in Exeter and many voices to be heard. My hope is that the City of Literature can, among other things, help adults enjoy reading even more, bring international authors and writers here from our sister Cities of Lit, and that local writers will uncover and reinterpret Exeter’s stories.”

Exeter’s bid to become a City of Literature centred around 1,000 years of unbroken history of reading in the region, recognising The Exeter Book at Exeter Cathedral as well as the literary partnerships that came together on the bid.

The vision for Exeter City of Literature is for everyone to grow a lot of stories and storytelling.  

The City of Literature programme was hosted within the University of Exeter prior to becoming an independent organisation. The University was a leading partner on the winning application to UNESCO along with other key regional stakeholders including Exeter City Council, the Devon and Exeter Institute, Literature Works, Devon County Council, and Libraries Unlimited. The City of Literature is currently funded in large part by Arts Council England.

The inaugural Board of Directors are Dee Rowett (Chair), Director of Teaching & Learning at Exeter College; Malcolm Richards, co-owner of Bookbag, PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, and former teacher; and Cllr Amal Ghusain, Lead Councillor for Communities & Culture at Exeter City Council.

For more information go to the City of Literature website








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