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Norwich to be home to new National Centre for Writing

Picture:Thom Law/National Centre for Writing

Picture:Thom Law/National Centre for Writing

Thom Law/National Centre for Writing

It could very soon be the place where bestselling novels, short stories and poems are inspired and crafted.

Artistic impression of the new South Wing at the National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall, by Derek Jackson. Picture: National Centre for WritingArtistic impression of the new South Wing at the National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall, by Derek Jackson. Picture: National Centre for Writing

And now Norwich is set to embark on the next chapter of literary greatness – as the UK’s first National Centre for Writing (NCW) is unveiled in the fine city.

Although most national headquarters are in London or a major city, a £2m extension and restoration of the historic Dragon Hall means the focus of the nation’s wordsmiths will be in the heart of East Anglia.

Backed by patrons including Margaret Atwood, Sarah Perry, Ali Smith and Rose Tremain, the centre aims to inspire 20,000 young people to pick up their pens or enjoy literature in its first year.

A topping out ceremony today (Monday, June 18) will mark the completion of the campus, which includes a new education room for workshops, a Great Hall for events and a writers-in-residence cottage.

Margaret Atwood, Patron of the National Centre for Writing, touring Dragon Hall with Christ Gribble, Chief Executive of NCW. Picture: Thom Law/National Centre for WritingMargaret Atwood, Patron of the National Centre for Writing, touring Dragon Hall with Christ Gribble, Chief Executive of NCW. Picture: Thom Law/National Centre for Writing

The aim is for the centre to be a “physical and digital space for the enjoyment of words, ideas and books” in what organisers have called a “landmark development for Norwich”, which is also England’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Chris Gribble, chief executive of NCW, said: “After several years in the planning, we are thrilled to celebrate this landmark occasion for our home city.”

The goal, he said, is to “create something very special as we embark on the next chapter for literature in the UK”.

He added: “This is a wonderful occasion for our city and region, which puts Norwich on the global map as a centre of literary excellence.”

Chris Gribble, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Writing. Picture: Thom Law/National Centre for WritingChris Gribble, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Writing. Picture: Thom Law/National Centre for Writing

Arts Council England, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council and the University of East Anglia have also helped bring the project to fruition.

Hedley Swain, south-east area director for Arts Council England, said: “It’s very exciting to see this project come to fruition.

“Writers’ Centre Norwich already has a fantastic international reputation for excellence in literature and the developments at Dragon Hall will only enhance this further.

“We’re very proud to have supported this work thanks to National Lottery funding and I look forward to seeing many people from the local community, regionally and nationally benefit from all that the new Dragon Hall offers.”

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “The opening of the new National Centre for Writing here in Norwich marks a significant point in an amazing journey for our city.

“It’s one that’s taken us from becoming England’s first UNESCO city of literature to being the home of the first National Centre for Writing. Dragon Hall, with its long history and newly completed wing, provides a fitting setting for this important cultural development.”

The build of the new South Wing office and education space was led by John Youngs. General manager of John Youngs, James Phillips, said: “We are immensely proud to have delivered this project. It’s great to be able to create a unique space that will not only serve the local community but also the writers of tomorrow.”

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