New archive is a great boost for our Fine City of Literature

UEA archive. Pictured: Doris Lessing letters. Picture: Doris Lessing Estate.

UEA archive. Pictured: Doris Lessing letters. Picture: Doris Lessing Estate. - Credit: Doris Lessing Estate

A new literary archive at the University of East Anglia gives a wonderful insight into the minds of some of the greatest contemporary writers. Arts correspondent EMMA KNIGHTS reports

Doris Lessing. Picture: Chris Saunders.

Doris Lessing. Picture: Chris Saunders. - Credit: Chris Saunders

Norwich's status as a world leader in literature has yet another string to its bow with the launch of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing in the city.

The comprehensive collection of writing by some of our most celebrated wordsmiths is being housed at the University of East Anglia, building on the university's international reputation for creative writing as well as Norwich's prestigious standing as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Previously unseen letters from Doris Lessing, revealing her frustrations as a novelist and references to her love affairs, feature in the archive alongside literary material from prize-winning authors including Malcolm Bradbury, JD Salinger, Roger Deakin, Lorna Sage, Nadine Gordimer and WG Sebald.

There are also more than 300 interviews with prominent authors who have appeared at the UEA's literary festivals, including Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Anne Enright, Seamus Heaney, Kazuo Ishiguro, PD James, Ian McEwan, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, Harold Pinter, Salman Rushdie and Ali Smith.

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The archive also has a 'storehouse initiative' which aims to boost the profiles of authors who are at the early stages of their careers and give more people the opportunity to access their writing.

Prof Yvonne Tasker, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at UEA, said: 'Building on UEA's longstanding commitment to literature and creative writing, the British Archive for Contemporary Writing will provide an outstanding research resource. The availability of materials from writers, agents and publishers united in one archive allows a unique opportunity to explore the entire lifespan of a contemporary creative work.'

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The new archive has been welcomed by key figures in both the local and national literary scenes.

Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers' Centre Norwich, said: 'UEA is vital to Norwich's status as England's UNESCO City of Literature. A bold and visionary undertaking, the BACW will be the first archive of this kind in the UK and will drive research, exhibitions and engagement opportunities of a scale and quality that will only reinforce Norwich's place on the global literary stage.'

Antonia Byatt, Arts Council England director for literature, said: 'English Literature is read and celebrated around the world. 'It is one of our greatest exports and therefore it is wonderful to see that a new home for contemporary writers' archives will be created in Norwich, a UNESCO City of Literature...Norwich is a city that brings literature to life and this new addition will only add to the rich cultural fabric of the city.'

For more information about the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, including how to access material in the archive, visit

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