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Krakow is celebrating one year anniversary as a member of the Cities of Literature Network, pic. Tomasz Wiech
02 February
2015

Another year in the UNESCO City of Literature is over!

Another year in the UNESCO City of Literature is over!

The last intense and exciting twelve months abounded in events devoted to literature. The 7-day long Conrad Festival – the biggest festival of literature in Central Europe – was visited by over 150 writers from around the world, who attracted several thousands of spectators. A record attendance of 60,000 visitors was achieved by the 18th International Book Fair in Krakow. It was also the year when the Wisława Szymborska Award – the highest literary award in Poland and one of the highest in Europe – was granted for the second time. Apart from that, the last year was marked by innovations. 100 literary benches utilising new Technologies were installed in the Planty Park, and almost 8,000 free e-books and their fragments were borrowed during the Czytaj KRK! campaign. 15,000 books found new owners during 24 rounds of the Second Life of a Book campaign, and 40,000 copies of the Literary Map of Krakow were collected by Cracovians and tourists. However, figures and statistics were not the most important this year. What counted in the first place, was the unique atmosphere of literary Krakow, which enchanted both book lovers and writers from around the world who visited the city.

Conrad Festival

Within the scope of the 6th edition of the Conrad Festival – “Shared Worlds” – almost 150 events were organised, which attracted over 15,000 participants. During the one-week festival of literature, Krakow was visited by the greatest stars of the literary world: Boris Akunin, Paul Auster, Jaume Cabré, Etgar Keret and many domestic writers, such as Olga Tokarczuk, Janusz Głowacki or Szczepan Twardoch. For the first time, the festival events took place on the premises of the ICE Krakow Congress Centre. The festival was accompanied by many events, including concerts, film screenings, workshops for children and elderly readers, as well as industry meetings and training courses for booksellers and librarians. A special guest of the last edition of the Conrad Festival was Edinburgh – a UNESCO City of Literature co-operating with Krakow.

Festival of Literature for Children

In May, Krakow was home to the first edition of the Festival of Literature for Children – the first literary event on such a large scale that was dedicated almost entirely to children! The programme included meetings with authors and illustrators of children’s books, workshops, theatrical performances, and official readings of books in offices of mayors of cities participating in the festival. The first edition of the Festival aroused huge interest among small and big fans of literature.

New Technologies promote reading

In 2014, we also carried out successfully two extremely popular projects, under which we utilised new technologies in order to encourage Cracovians and tourists to read books. Thanks to City Codes, 100 literary benches dedicated to writers connected with Krakow were installed in the Planty Park. Among patrons we can find Wisława Szymborska, Joseph Conrad and Jan Kochanowski, but also Zośka Papużanka, Szczepan Twardoch or Łukasz Orbitowski. Beside names of authors, special plates with QR codes were placed to provide access to the website with fragments of texts, historical recordings, photographs and biographical information. The second project – Czytaj KRK! – is a specially elaborated application that gives users unlimited access to an e-book library. During three rounds of this unprecedented campaign, Cracovians could borrow books by Jacek Dukaj, Szczepan Twardoch, Rajy Shehadeh or other authors for one month. QR codes providing access to books could be found on posters in the city space: at bus and tram stops, in libraries and museums, in trams and in selected cafés and restaurants.

Book Fair with a record attendance and literary awards

The Book Fair was held in Krakow already for the 18th time, but it was the first edition organised as the International Book Fair and in the entirely new location: the International Exhibition and Convention Centre EXPO Krakow at ul. Galicyjska. Every year the event attracts a growing number of both Polish and foreign publishers and visitors – this year’s edition included 700 book stands visited by a record number of 60,000 persons. Moreover, on the last Saturday of October, the Wisława Szymborska Award – the highest literary award in Poland – was granted for the second time. A statuette and a cheque for PLN 200,000 were awarded to Julia Hartwig – the Nestor of Polish poetry. In June, the winner of the Transatlantyk Award, which is granted to persons promoting Polish literature around the world, was announced for the 9th time. This time the award went to Bill Johnston, a translator and a professor of comparative literature at Indiana University in the USA. It is also worth noting the Kazimierz Wyka Award – an award granted in the field of literary criticism, essays and the history of literature every January; its most recent winner is Małgorzata Szpakowska.

Literature has conquered the city

In 2014, there was plenty of literary events in Krakow! At the entrance to the Nowa Prowincja café at ul. Bracka, the first literary entry phone system in Poland was installed. For the first time, Cracovians and tourists could visit the most important literary addresses of the city by means of the Literary Map of Krakow, which was distributed at InfoKraków city points, in city libraries and cultural institutions. Huge crowds were attracted by a cycle of thematic literary walks (e.g., on the trail of poetry, Wisława Szymborska or Krakow bar realism) that took place every last Saturday of each month. New virtual literary routes were published regularly on the website of Reading Małopolska – a project nominated for the prestigious award ‘Poland Even More Beautiful – 7 Wonders of European Funds’ in May. A special walk was organised to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Czesław Miłosz’s death, and 1,000 colourful balloons flew into the sky from the ground of the Market Square exactly one year after Krakow had received the title of City of Literature. We closed the year in the City of Literature with ‘Crime in Krakow’ – a city game containing references to detective books by Krakow writers, which attracted nearly 200 participants.

Foreign events and international projects

The year 2014 was also marked by an intense co-operation of Krakow with foreign partners. The city became a place of temporary stay for Lyavon Barshcheuski– an outstanding Byelorussian translator, writer and political activist, who was already the 4th stipendiary of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) programme. For the entire year, in the central point of the city, on the wall of the tenement house at the corner of ul. Bracka and the Market Square, we could read poems by poets from 7 UNESCO Cities of Literature, and each City of Literature created short films based on Finnegans Wake by James Joyce on the 75th anniversary of the publication of this outstanding novel. Krakow UNESCO City of Literature was also present at international book fairs in New Delhi, Bratislava, Edinburgh, Vienna and some other cities. At the end of the year, it was announced that the network of UNESCO Cities of Literature had been expanded with further four cities: Prague, Heidelberg, Grenade and Dunedin (New Zealand).

Thank you, our Partners!

Last year’s projects would have been impossible to carry out without support from our partners. In particular, we would like to thank the Book Institute, the Foundation of the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly, the City of Literature Foundation, the Poemat Foundation, Krakow publishers and the Woblink platform, the Regional Public Library and municipal libraries, the Cervantes Institute, the French Institute, the Goethe Institute and the Italian Institute, the International Cultural Centre, the Radiofonia Association, students and employees of the Faculty of Philologies and the UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication of the Jagiellonian University, as well as Krakow bookstores.

All projects carried out by us fit into the strategy of an UNESCO City of Literature, which encompasses, among others, the integration of literary life, the support of the development of book industries, the organisation of literary events and festivals and the support of the presence of literature in public space.

In 2015 we will have further exciting projects to offer. Krakow will be teeming with literature even more strongly!