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What price the first World city of Literature?

22 November 2004

No-one was more surprised than the members of the UK delegation who had worked to put in a bid for Edinburgh to become the first UNESCO City of Literature. Just after a grand party in Paris to launch the bid, it was announced that validation would be immediate, rather than there being six months to wait before the decision was made. But Edinburgh is ready. The website, is already up and running, with information on the city's landmarks and a listing of book events.

But why Scotland, and why Edinburgh? The answer to this must partly be the immensely successful Edinburgh International Book Festival, with its 650 events and huge reputation (see News Review 26 July). Edinburgh is home to internationally-known writers, such as J K Rowling, Ian Rankin, Muriel Spark and Alexander McCall Smith. It prides itself on its culture.

But what will this actually mean to the city? Will it make a real difference, as opposed to providing an occasion for an outburst of civic pride? An economic impact study estimates the benefit to be in the region of £2.2 million (approximately $4.49 million) to Edinburgh and £2.1 million to the rest of Scotland. Lorraine Fannin of the Scottish Publishers Association

Trade association of almost 50 Scottish publishers - helps publishers promote their books.

said: 'I think the publishing industry will benefit enormously from the focus on the city as a city of literature, publishing and writing.'

Leverage is already being applied in relation to matters such as the state of the city's libraries, and the proud title of first World City of Literature looks like providing something to live up to. Watch this space for news on what happens next.