How does a city’s biography inform its current life? What stories are told by places, and by people, past and present? What new stories do they inspire?
26 Writers Norwich is a collaborative writing project which pairs contemporary writers with Norwich writers, all of whom pioneered an idea, or an institution, sometimes both. ‘The least religious city’ in England and Wales (2011 Census) was home to Bishop Herbert de Losinga, whose cathedral houses a world-renowned library; Julian of Norwich, the venerated Christian mystic whose books are the first written in English by a woman; and Elizabeth Fry, the renowned Quaker social reformer and prison reformer. Literary luminaries from the last 900 years include Britain’s first Hebrew poet, the “father of the English sonnet”, the author of Black Beauty, and the first Creative Writing scholar. Radicals pepper the Norwich archives – in journalism, feminism, science, sociology, philosophy, politics and education. Poetry blossoms and blooms in new forms. Novels break the rules. Folklore abounds and maps flourish. Is it any wonder that Norwich today is England’s first City of Literature?
Each 26er is randomly paired with one of 26 Norwich ‘heritage’ writers. And one of 26 UEA Creative Writing students. The task? Read your writer’s work. Visit Norwich. Seek out the shrine, the house, the monument, the library, the grave, the unmarked spot… Immerse yourself. Listen. Dig. Wander. Explore. Think. Find out as much as possible from Norwich’s present. Ask yourself what you need to know. Write a creative response to the person, the place, the work, the legacy – whatever demands to be written.
Project leaders and editors: John Simmons, Elise Valmorbida, Sara Sheridan (all on the board of 26) and Chris Gribble, director of Writers Centre Norwich
Partners: Writers Centre Norwich, University of East Anglia (UEA)
Outcomes: poems, essays, meditations and stories between 62—2,000 words
A beautiful website with new writing works and an interactive literary map designed by Rodney Mylius