City becomes home for persecuted writers

Dozens of campaigners from across the globe gathered in Norfolk last night as Norwich celebrated becoming Britain's first City of Refuge, giving a safe haven to persecuted writers and their families.

Dozens of campaigners from across the globe gathered in Norfolk last night as Norwich celebrated becoming Britain's first City of Refuge, giving a safe haven to persecuted writers and their families.

It will join an the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) to become one of more than 30 offering residency to politically exiled writers who have been denied freedom of speech in their home countries.

In the autumn it will be welcoming one such writer and offering a home and a haven and will bag a world first by running a three-year community programme which will include work in schools libraries arts venues community centres asylum seeker centres and prisons.

Together with exiled writers now living in the UK, it will help to promote tolerance and understanding through workshops and events.

Norwich City of Refuge is being supported by Norwich City Council, The Urban Cultural Fund, the University of East Anglia, PEN, which campaigns for freedom of expression in literature, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Anguish's Educational Trust.

In addition the city has been chosen to host ICORN's second general assembly with a delegate from each of its 33 countries gathering at City Hall last night.

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Chris Gribble, chief executive of New Writing Partnership, which supports creative writing in the East of England and organised Norwich's involvement with ICORN, said it was a great honour for the region.

“We are very pleased that the ICORN General Assembly has been secured for Norwich,” he said.

“The idea of becoming a City of Refuge first came about from a group of writers and journalists based in Norwich and with a connection with English and International PEN.

“Because Norwich has such a great literary record and heritage they came to us asking if it could be involved.

“The first writer in residence will be arriving in autumn and that will be a very special moment for us. We will feel much more like a City of Refuge once we actually have a writer actually here.

“And that will put a human face on the programmes we are running which is so important to break down the barriers of preconceptions and prejudices. The individual story is so powerful.”

Yesterday also saw the launch of the New Writing Partnership's annual event, New Writing Worlds which runs until Wednesday, the theme of which is Exile and Imagination.

For more information visit www.newwritingpartnership/cityofrefuge