Numerous literary festivals, a great literary heritage and many other initiatives make Barcelona a UNESCO City of Literature. In the interview with Annika Depping, Jaume Muñoz Jofre, director of the Barcelona City of Literature Office, reported more about Barcelona's path to the title, new international connections and the world of books.
What makes Barcelona a City of Literature and since when does it have the title?
UNESCO appointed Barcelona as a Creative City of Literature in 2015, but we have been a city of literature for ages. Barcelona has always had a very active literary network on full scale – writers, publishers, and – most important of all: readers. We are the capital of the Catalan culture and the publishing capital – alongside with México City – of the Spanish publishing.
With which projects did your city apply for the title City of Literature?
We presented our city’s literary variety and made a project to foster its recognition. Since we got appointed as a City of Literature, we promoted reading – in collaboration with our Public Libraries system –, created new tools to disseminate our literary heritage (Literary Map, etc.) and created three grants/residencies programs for writers.
How did the idea for the application come about and what did the application process look like?
The City Council and the book sector gathered to develop together the project.
How did the local literary scene react to the plans for the application?
They supported it actively.
What does it mean for your city to be part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities? What are the advantages, what are the obligations?
How did it continue from there? What kind of regular meetings exist for example?
We developed our strategic lines. We do not have regular meetings with the whole book sector, but the ones required – project by project.
Which international relations emerged for your city after joining the Creative Cities Network? Which specific international projects could be initiated as a result? Which lasting partnerships and twinnings have developed from there?
We made exchanges of writers with other cities (such as Leeuwarden, Heidelberg, Prague or Exeter), did activities of our literary festivals in other cities (such as Manchester or Exeter) and collaborated in the ongoing International Days (such as Mother Language, Poetry, etc.) in the extent the network asked for.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of such a cultural exchange?
Myriads. Barcelona got to learn from other cities and other cities got to learn about us in many ways.
What tips do you have for Bremen’s application?
We would encourage Bremen to show its cultural diversity and strength – from tradition to modern days.
Do you know the city of Bremen? What do you appreciate about the city? Is Bremen already a City of Literature?
I was lucky to discover Bremen lately. I obviously knew about The Musicians story, but I found an open and diverse city in my latest visit.