Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature

A small, fierce charity with a mission to build a better world with words

Bromley House Library, Angel Row, Nottingham, NG1 6HL +44(0)7903 342979

VISIT website


Nottingham boasts a UNESCO designation, recognised as a world-class creative city, it joins a network of only 20 UNESCO Cities of Literature worldwide. Our status as a UNESCO Creative City leads us to believe we can use the power of literature as a catalyst for sustainable urban development and improvement in people's lives. Our ambition is to ensure that Nottingham City of Literature is a fully active member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) thus reinforcing its position on the world literary scene. Our aim is also to support, animate and develop the city's designation in the interests of residents and visitors to Nottingham and its surrounding area and increase everyone's access to the benefits of literature: learning, skills, quality of life, social capital, improved life chances, and better health and wellbeing.

VISIT website

International Priorities

The organisation was formed in April 2016. International projects, activities and partnerships will be developed as an integral part of our programme in 2017-2019. We are only at the beginning of our journey. 

Key Strengths

Nottingham won the UNESCO accolade on account of the city's literary heritage, its diverse writing community and its commitment to improving literacy across the city. We recognise that words can be truly transformative. Nottingham has always excelled at realising this: from the world-changing lines of Byron through to our present poetry scene; from DH Lawrence's questioning of convention through to the Sleaford Mods splenetic rage; we have a vernacular unique.

In our first year (2016) we have consolidated the partnerships that enabled the application for our designation, set ourselves up as a registered charity, secured 3-year core funding from Nottingham City Council, Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University, appointed our first Director, and delivered a core programme of activities.


  • Publication of Dawn of the Unread - the narrative conceit is that, incensed by the closures of libraries and low literacy in 21st-century Britain, Nottingham's most famous dead authors return from the grave to wreak revenge. Dawn of the Unread began life as an online graphic novel serial and utilised the potential of digital technology by including embedded content that provided contextual information. This helped facilitate more insightful discussions for readers who wanted to go deeper into the text. The book will now be distributed to every school across Nottingham and developed as a literacy engagement tool for KS3 and to engage reluctant readers and raise literacy levels and enthusiasm for local history. It is already being taught on various modules at Nottingham Trent University.
  • Line of Light - we commissioned and launched a new project designed by artist, Jo Fairfax where five-word poems by local and international poets, are projected onto the underside of the bridge over Station Street. The installation features two sets of parallel lines mirroring the tram tracks above the bridge, which light up and pulse as a tram crosses overhead. A new poem is featured on the wall every night.
  • Monster - we launched a new anthology from fifteen fresh Nottingham-based writers who are just starting out their careers. Published by Nottingham Trent University, the first edition paperback is already sold out through pre-sales and a reprint is to be delivered soon.
  • We commissioned Makermet as our new strategic digital partner who will support us to design a new website (launching in April 2017) that feels more alive with new content and adopts innovative storytelling methods. 


We are now in a great position to enter our second year; our aim is to support, animate and develop the city's designation and strengthen international collaberation. We are becoming a vital catalyst for writers, libraries, arts and literature organisations in Nottingham, brokering partnerships, facilitating ideas and commissioning new opportunities to develop new projects and events for diverse audiences. The Director, Sandeep Mahal, has a background in libraries' reader development work, digital arts, audience and partnership development, grounded in a lifelong passion for reading. In terms of infrastructure, Nottingham has a strong network of libraries (remarkable given years of austerity!), bookshops (including indie heroes Five Leaves and Rough Trade), and a Writers' Studio formed by writers for mutual support and inspiration. Plus for a compact city, we have a fantastically rich network of cultural venues who all programme spoken word and literature events including Nottingham Playhouse, Theatre Royal, Lakeside Arts Centre, Broadway Cinema and Nottingham Contemporary.


Our programming is currently in development. Hope to announce in April 2017. 

Seeking partnerships with

It's hard to specific at this stage, but we are open to finding new partnership development opportunities with the exemplar organisations who excel in:

  1. Developing audiences for live literature events
  2. Literary tourism, and
  3. Literacy

We have relationships with National Literacy Trust and The Reading Agency, so I'm specifically looking at international organistions.  

Purpose of partnerships

A knowledge and skills sharing/exchange; new projects that enable writers to be showcased/get commissioned.