Belfast City Council is launching a series of new initiatives to celebrate our rich literary heritage, vibrant contemporary scene and to establish a strong reputation as a capital city with unique and exciting experiences.
'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 the council's Development Committee.
'To help us capitalize 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.'
The new initiatives will go live at the Belfast Book Festival 2011 which takes place from 13th June-19th June, and aims to be the largest and most inclusive Book Festival Belfast has yet seen. Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, this is an opportunity for all lovers of all forms of books to find something for them, in a week long celebration of the energy that books create.
'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.
'These products present a unique, individual and compelling experience for visitors and promote our modern culture, characters and writers, poets and playwrights on the world stage,' explained Stalford.
The main aims of the council's enhanced literary tourism initiative are to:
- create distinction for Belfast in a competitive marketplace.
- appeal to special interest and niche cultural tourism markets and attract domestic and out-of-state tourists.
- enhance the visitor experience.
- improve the weekend economy and increase overnight stays in the city.
- use innovative technology to improve access to and dissemination of visitor information; and
- encourage the economic benefits of tourism.
'Unquestionably, Belfast now attracts global literary renown and over the past decades, this has been our foremost imaginative export,' continued Alderman Stalford.
'Michael Longley, Derek Mahon and the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney emerged in the sixties, and are known across the world as some of the finest poets writing in the English language. Subsequent generations have thrown up talents no less distinguished and distinct,' he added.
'Literary Belfast is very much alive, with a multitude of events, festivals and venues which will take you to places old and new, through history and the changing modern city alike. There are few better ways to get to know a city than through its writers, whether they are locals who appreciate every nuance of the complex city, or visiting scribes, writing of how Belfast assaults the senses of those who meet it for the first time.
'Our Literary Belfast products will assist you as you journey through the literary city and the many shades of our history, taking you from the splendour of City Hall and the lives commemorated in Writer's Square to back alleys and quiet suburban streets across the city where the finest of our writers lived, walked and worked,' says Stalford.
Among the products being developed is a new Literary Belfast iPhone app in partnership with FilmTrip, 'Belfast Through Writers' Eyes', with video guides to the city, and their work, from Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Marie Jones, Patricia Craig, Glenn Patterson, Martin Lynch, David Park, Frank Ormsby, Sinead Morrissey, Leontia Flynn, Owen Mc Cafferty, Bernard MacLaverty and Ciaran Carson.
Another new product will be the Belfast Poets and Writers Exhibition and BBC Literary Archive, at the City Hall, which will give local people and visitors alike an insight into the influences of both native and visiting writers, from CS Lewis and Brian Moore to John Keats and Anthony Trollope.
A new website, www.LiteraryBelfast.org, also is being launched in partnership with Culture Northern Ireland, featuring 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 a series of guided tours and walking trails, including the 'Belfast Literary Walking Tours' by literature enthusiast and Co-ordinator of the Belfast Book Festival, Hugh Odling-Smee and Robbie Meredith, the always popular 'CS Lewis Tour' by Sandy Smyth, and the 'Nearly True Tales Tour' for children over the age of seven by Young at Art. Details of all of these tours, and the other products, can be obtained from the Belfast Welcome Centre in Donegall Place.
The Belfast Book Festival includes some 40 events for all tastes and features a mix of new voices, original work and well-known authors. Events take place at the Crescent Arts Centre, Black Box, Ulster Museum, The Lyric Theatre, No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast Exposed, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, McHugh's Bar, The Linen Hall Library and the QFT.
More details are available from 2nd June at www.belfastbookfestival.com
The new initiatives have been funded by Belfast City Council 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.