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Oxford pitches to be Unesco world book capital
TODAY Oxford submits its bid to be Unesco World Book Capital 2014 with the promise of a string of glittering prizes, reading initiatives and an economic boost if the city wins.
Oxford is up against Vilnius in Lithuania and Pula in Croatia for the title which was launched in 1996 when Madrid was named the first World Book Capital. Yerevan in Armenia is the incumbent city.
After more than 18 months surveying reading groups, publishers, booksellers and arts organisations, the steering committee behind the bid is now hoping its 39-page proposal will impress the judges.
Oxford University Press, Blackwell’s, the Bodleian Libraries, The Story Museum, Oxford Literary Festival, the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxfam, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford Inspires have written the bid, backed by Oxford authors Colin Dexter and Philip Pullman.
If successful, Oxford will enjoy a year in the global literary spotlight with the Story Museum and New Bodleian Library both already scheduled to open in 2014.
Jacqui Ibbotson, of the steering committee and cultural organisation Oxford Inspires, said: “We are recognising Oxford’s contribution to language through the Oxford English Dictionary.
“We’re also embracing translation. There’s a lot in the bid about digitisation, looking at the positives and the challenges it creates.”
The steering committee is working to bring the Independent Foreign Fiction Award to Oxford and it is hoped other high-profile literary prizes could follow suit. Bid organisers are already in talks with major book prizes such as the Carnegie Medal and The Kate Greenaway Medal.
And although winning the World Book Capital title does not in result in any funding grant from Unesco, winning the title is likely to bring with it lucrative tourist trade and opportunities for publishers.
Ms Ibbotson said: “Booksellers are going through huge changes because of digitisation and some are having to close and we hope this helps them get the publicity they deserve.”
Anna Baldwin, of Oxford University Press, said: “World Book Capital encourages a very broad approach – it’s about people reading whatever they choose, however suits them best.
“If Oxford’s bid is successful it will help improve access to reading in a variety of ways that will benefit communities well beyond 2014. As a publisher that’s very exciting.’
- To mark World Book Night tonight, members and supporters of Oxford’s World Book Capital bid will give out free books around the city at locations including the Mini car plant, the Story Museum, Carfax, Oxford train station and the Bodleian Library Quad.