Norwich to become 'city of refuge'

Norwich is to become the UK's first “City Of Refuge” for persecuted writers and their families.It will join an international network of more than 30 cities, welcoming politically exiled writers who have been denied freedom of speech in their home countries.

Norwich is to become the UK's first “City Of Refuge” for persecuted writers and their families.

It will join an international network of more than 30 cities, welcoming politically exiled writers who have been denied freedom of speech in their home countries.

The city is also to host a “writer in residence”, who will help to promote the issues facing refugees and asylum seekers, on a regional, national and international level.

As the country's first City Of Refuge, Norwich will offer safety and

creative freedom to a persecuted writer 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.

A young poets competition will be launched this month while the Strangers And Canaries library project will teach youngsters about Norwich's history of welcoming persecuted people and how they gave Norwich City Football Club its nickname.

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The initiative is being supported by the New Writing Partnership, Norwich City Council, and the UEA, backed by the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).

Chris Gribble, chief executive of the New Writing Partnership, which supports creative writing in the east of England, said: “Norwich has been working towards this for three or four years now.

“It has a great heritage of writing linked to the UEA and the history of the city.

“Individual stories can be so much more powerful than facts and figures and we hope our resident writer will highlight the issues and discussions about refugees, freedom of speech, and anti-racism.”

The idea for cities of refuge was formed in 1993 in response to the assassination of writers in Algeria.

Its supporters include high profile authors Salman Rushdie, Vaclav Havel and Margaret Drabble.

Funding for the project is from a wide range of sources, mainly foundations, trusts and charities.

The identity of the resident writer will be announced in the coming months and the project will be officially launched in June.

City councillor Brenda Ferris said: “Norwich has always had a strong tradition of taking in refugees.

“Much of our prosperity was based in the past on the Flemish weavers who came here. At one point 37pc of the city's population was made up of 'Strangers'.”