There are some top events to explore as this year’s City of Literature programme runs alongside the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (NNFest).

Norwich became England’s first Unesco City of Literature in 2012 but has been a literary city for more than 900 years – a place of ideas where the power of words has changed lives, promoted parliamentary democracy, fomented revolution, fought for the abolition of slavery and transformed literature.  

Today, Norwich is home to a thriving culture of bookshops and libraries, the most renowned Creative Writing MA in the country at UEA and a burgeoning community of writers, editors, critics and historians. 

Since 2013, the National Centre for Writing has worked together with NNFest to create City of Literature – an annual programme of events about books, words and ideas. 

Eastern Daily Press: Holly Ainley, head of programmes and creative engagement at National Centre for WritingHolly Ainley, head of programmes and creative engagement at National Centre for Writing (Image: National Centre for Writing)

“City of Literature is a flagship moment in our calendar,” said Holly Ainley, head of programmes and creative engagement at the National Centre for Writing.

“It is an opportunity to celebrate our Unesco status by bringing internationally-renowned speakers to Norwich, as well as providing a platform for new and emerging voices alongside them.” 

City of Literature also offers workshops for writers, interactive activities for families and a publishing fair.  

Events are hosted at the much-loved Adnams Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, Dragon Hall on King Street and outdoor spaces such as Plantation Gardens. 

This year’s theme focuses on representation and communication. 

“As ever, we wanted to make sure the programme celebrates a multiplicity of voices and holds space for perspectives we don’t always get to hear from,” said Holly. 

“We started with some big questions such as: whose voices shout the loudest in the maelstrom of modern-day conversation and literature and why? Who might be going unheard, and how can we make sure that we’re listening?  

"I hope the events and workshops on offer will inspire audiences to think about all kinds of related topics: what it means to be an ‘outsider’, how to find your authentic voice, and what happens when words or language become a barrier.” 

READ MORE: Why was this colourful double act at Norwich Station?

Here are five events from this year’s City of Literature you won’t want to miss.   

Eastern Daily Press: Carys Davies and Jon McGregor will discuss Davies' new novel 'Clear' on 24 MayCarys Davies and Jon McGregor will discuss Davies' new novel 'Clear' on 24 May (Image: Carys Davies)

The Distance Between Us

Dragon Hall, May 24 

Award-winning novelists Carys Davies and Jon McGregor reflect on the human impulse to unite and tell our stories – even when words fail us.  

“This will be a conversation about connection, isolation and what happens to your identity if you lose the power of speech,” Holly said. “Carys’s new novel is heartrending and will stay with you.” 

Eastern Daily Press: Sarah Marsh’s debut novel, 'A Sign of Her Own', explores deaf history and representationSarah Marsh’s debut novel, 'A Sign of Her Own', explores deaf history and representation (Image: Rii Schroer)

A Sign of Her Own

Dragon Hall, May 25 

Come along for an in-depth discussion of Sarah Marsh’s debut literary novel, exploring deaf history and representation. 

“This novel and author bring a vital, fascinating story to light, encouraging readers to consider the danger of trying to place one language in a hierarchy above another,” Holly said.  

This event will be BSL-interpreted.  

Eastern Daily Press: Author Hannah Jane WalkerAuthor Hannah Jane Walker (Image: Hannah Jane Walker)

Poems as Friends

Adnams Spiegeltent, May 25 

Fiona Bennett and Michael Shaeffer are joined by Roy McFarlane and Hannah Jane Walker to share readings and insights on the life-changing power of poems as companions. 

"The concept is all about connection with people from all walks of life and the way a poem can comfort and stay with you, like a friend for life,” Holly said. “Perfect for a Saturday morning!” 

Eastern Daily Press: Therapist and writer Marchelle FarrellTherapist and writer Marchelle Farrell (Image: Richard Grassie)


Adnams Spiegeltent, 26 May 

"This event will make you think differently about home, belonging and where you come from by exploring plants, landscape and gardening,” Holly said. “It promises to be a thought-provoking but also soothing, grounding Sunday event.”   

Eastern Daily Press: Explore the new Wandering Words literary trail in NorwichExplore the new Wandering Words literary trail in Norwich (Image: Joanna Millington)

Wandering Words

Wandering Words is a literary walking trail of the city. Equipped with your mobile phone and a map, you can follow the trail and scan the QR code at each marked location to hear a poem written by a writer with ties to Norwich, as well as sounds of the people and settings that inspired each of them to put pen to paper.  

New work comes from Norwich-based poets Martin Figura and Cat Woodward, responding to places in the city special to them. 

“The works on the trail represent the breadth of new writing happening in, around and inspired by Norwich,” Holly said. 

“The city comes alive in a unique way in May with lots to see and do, so I’d recommend starting off by picking up the free Wandering Words map from the festival box office and walking the trail, soaking up the sounds of the city and getting into the festival spirit.”   

For more information and to book tickets, visit