The biggest ever gathering of Belfast’s writers was held to mark the official launch of a series of new initiatives to highlight the city’s rich literary heritage and vibrant contemporary scene.
On Tuesday, September 6, Belfast City Council and its various partners officially launched 'Literary Belfast', with a gala evening at the Ulster Hall, featuring Northern Irish writers reading from their works.
These writers included Colin Bateman, Ciaran Carson, Patricia Craig, Leontia Flynn, Marie Jones, Michael Longley, Martin Lynch, Bernard MacLaverty, Owen McCafferty, Sinead Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Frank Ormsby, David Park and Glenn Patterson.
'The United Kingdom currently features as number one in a list, compiled by TripAdvisor, of the top ten literary destinations in the world, and literary tourism contributes up to £2.6 billion a year to the British economy,' explained Alderman Christopher Stalford, Chairman of BCC’s Development Committee.
'To help us capitalise upon this massive market, our Literary Tourism Plan has been significantly enhanced by a successful application to the NITB’s Tourism Innovation Fund, and new partnerships which have been established with Queen’s University, the BBC and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
'Belfast’s literary heritage has an important role to play in "place-making", and is an important dimension in marketing Belfast as an international destination. We have developed a range of literary tourism products, based on leading case studies from the UK’s Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change and Dublin’s literary tourism initiatives.'
Among the products which have been developed to help people explore Belfast’s literary landscape, and which were officially launched at the September gala, were a new Literary Belfast website and iPhone app; the Belfast Poets and Writers Exhibition and the opening of the BBC Literary Archive, at the City Hall; new and enhanced literary tours and trails; and a revamped CS Lewis exhibition, which will take place at both the Belmont Tower and the Linenhall Library.
The new website www.LiteraryBelfast.org has been developed in partnership with Culture Northern Ireland and features searchable events listings for all Belfast literature, as well as a showcase for literary venues, writing workshops and retreats, festivals, a ‘Hall Of Fame’, a number of comprehensive interactive exhibitions and exclusive audio and video material. Users of the site will be able to interact by signing up for regular free e-bulletins, posting comments, entering competitions to win signed editions of the latest releases, and joining in through Facebook and Twitter.
All of these are complemented by the annual Belfast Book Festival, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, as well as other events.
The new initiatives have been funded by BCC and part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, and administered by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
Siobhan McCauley, NITB’s Director of Product Development, said: 'The Tourism Innovation Fund seeks out fresh, cutting edge ideas which will put Northern Ireland firmly on the visitors map. The new app and website, as well as the exhibitions, will not only showcase our existing literary talent but will also ensure visitors have up to date information on local events and festivals.'