16 September 2010
The Bodleian Library has hosted today the official launch of Oxford’s bid to become UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014. The bid was announced this morning at a reception in the 400-year-old Convocation House of the Bodleian Library. It was attended by local authors including Philip Pullman and Colin Dexter, heads of local government, publishers and book readers of all ages.
The bid is being co-ordinated by Oxford Inspires – the Cultural Development Agency for Oxfordshire – on behalf of a steering committee made up of the following partners: The Bodleian Libraries, The Story Museum, Oxfam, University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford University Press, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford Literary Festival and Blackwell’s. The year-long programme would run from April 2014 to April 2015 and would include the openings of new parts of the Bodleian Libraries and the completion of The Story Museum.
Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘The Bodleian Libraries and the University of Oxford are committed and eager to contribute to Oxford’s campaign to become UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014. The exciting transformation of the New Bodleian Library into the Weston Library will be one of the landmark events within its scope. Nevertheless, we represent just one facet of the sparkling jewel that is Oxford in the world of books and reading.’
Tony Stratton, Chairman, Oxford Inspires, said: ‘The campaign will celebrate Oxford and Oxfordshire’s rich literary connections. We have unparalleled resources to support a programme of this kind – world renowned publishers, booksellers and libraries and there are probably more major authors of fiction and non-fiction based in and around Oxford than in any comparable city in the world. We are culturally diverse and already attract visitors from all over the world. And, we boast a strong reading public and an established and extremely successful literary festival. Our goal would be to inspire the world to pick up and read more books, more often.’
Philip Pulman, author and Oxford University graduate, said: 'Oxford would be a wonderful city to host the World Book Capital of 2014. Oxford gave me a University education but, best of all, a Bodleian readers' card which I have made regular use of for many years. It's always difficult to tell what chance of success we have, because we don't yet know what our competition will be and these decisions can sometimes be political. In the past we have had a strong bid for the European Capital of Culture which was overlooked - perhaps because the judges thought we already had plenty of culture!'
Since 2001 UNESCO has nominated a World Book Capital City to acknowledge the best year-long programme proposed by a city to promote books and foster reading. Successful programmes involve cooperation with local, national and international professional organizations representing writers, publishers, booksellers and librarians as well as communities and groups which encourage and promote reading. Oxford and its surrounding county of Oxfordshire have unparalleled resources and world renowned publishing and bookselling enterprises in place to support a programme of this kind, and there are probably more major, culturally diverse, authors based in or around Oxford than in any comparable city in the world.
A series of public and private consultations is planned over the coming months to galvanize support for the bid. The first opportunity for the general public to have their say will come this week from 17 to 20 September in Bonn Square, central Oxford, when local artist Diana Bell brings her 2-metre-high ‘Big Book’ installation to town. Passers-by will be invited to write their thoughts on the World Book Capital bid and subjects including ‘How do you imagine the future in words?’.