The Kolkata Municipal Corporation and British Council have held preliminary talks on pitching Kolkata as a ‘City of Literature’ under the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (CCN) programme.
“We believe Kolkata is uniquely placed to make a bid for the City of Literature tag,” said Firhad Hakim, chairman of the KMC board of administrators. CCN offers opportunities for cities to draw on peer learning processes and collaborative projects in order to capitalize on their creative assets and use this as a basis for building sustainable, inclusive and balanced development in economic, cultural, environmental and social terms. British Council had tried to put forward Kolkata’s bid in 2018, but the attempt failed due to lack of coordinated efforts.
The pitch for the City of Literature, one of seven creative fields, has to be made from the office of the mayor and must be ratified by the Centre. Only four cities from a country can make a bid in any year.
Among the various aspects that will be looked into are quality, quantity, and diversity of publishing in the city; educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels; role of literature, drama, and/or poetry in the city; literary events and festivals that promote domestic and foreign literature; existence of libraries, bookstores, and public or private cultural centres; involvement of the publishing sector in translating literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature; and active involvement of traditional and new media in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.
Sources said that British Council, which is acting as a facilitator, wants Kolkata to adopt climate change as a theme to resonate with the UN’s emphasis on climate issues and because Kolkata is among the most vulnerable cities threatened with inundation due to rising sea level owing to climate change.
“We believe Kolkata is uniquely placed for the honour. The city has produced five Nobel laureates and hosts the world’s largest commercial book fair,” a British Council official said. In addition, at least three literary festivals are annually held here.
Five British cities — Edinburgh, Exeter, Manchester, Norwich and Nottingham — have bagged the honour. Other designated Cities of Literature include Barcelona, Dublin, Durban, Granada, Krakow, Lahore, Melbourne, Milan, Prague, Reykjavik and Seattle.