Norwich: City of Refuge
Norwich is the regional capital for the East of England. In 2006, it became the UK’s first City of Refuge for persecuted writers and a member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Until the 18th century, Norwich was England’s ‘second city’, a centre of religious and political dissent and a haven for waves of refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. It also has a very strong literary history. Julian of Norwich wrote one of the most astonishing texts of the Middle Ages and was one of the first women to be published in English. Nearly 700 years later, Norwich is home to numerous poets, novelists, biographers, literary critics, playwrights and translators. The University of East Anglia is famous for supporting more writers and international writing fellowships than any other university in Britain. And the city is also home to Writers' Centre Norwich (formerly known as the New Writing Partnership).
Writers' Centre Norwich
Writers' Centre Norwich is a UK flagship organisation for literature. It was founded as New Writing Partnership in 2004 as a collaboration between the University of East Anglia, the city of Norwich, the county of Norfolk and Arts Council England, East. It seeks to explore the artistic and social power of creative writing through pioneering and collaborative projects with writers and other partners. Through a year-round programme of regional, national and international events, collaborations, education and outreach work, WCN has established itself as one of the UK's leading literature organizations and is also responsible for Norwich, City of Refuge.
Shahrazad in Norwich
The aim of Norwich as a refuge for threatened writers is to offer sanctuary, promote internationalism and to signify a commitment by the city to the causes of free speech and anti-racism. It was the first member of ICORN to root the Cities of Refuge scheme in a practical community programme of work in schools, libraries, arts venues and community centres. This grassroots programme is designed to promote cross-cultural dialogue and understanding and to encourage tolerance and integration in the wider community. Shahrazad in Norwich will continue to provide a platform for exiled writers and their work, to raise awareness of the countless ‘others’ who remain under threat of oppression, violence and persecution. It will do this through workshops in schools led by local and exiled writers working together to film poems and digital stories created by young asylum seekers and refugees in partnership with local children and the BBC, training and increasing knowledge and awareness around asylum and refugee issues, most notably, with local media.
Shenaz Kedar, Community and Participation Coordinator at Writers Centre Norwich, is responsible for Shahrazad in Norwich and the Norwich City of Refuge Programme
Chris Gribble is Chief Executive at Writers Centre Norwich and ICORN Board member
SHAHRAZAD PROJECTS - 1001 Digital Stories and Letters to Europe
Our existing community programme, particularly the schools model, will incorporate possibilities that come with Shahrazad: i.e. using Digital Stories and Letters to Europe to explore themes introduced within the classroom and other settings to open up forums for debate on the wider issues; to focus on raising awareness and encouraging young people to write on the themes of home, belonging, loss and identity.
Shahrazad Digital Storytelling project
The Digital Stories programme extends the film poems Exploring Norwich project developed as part of Norwich City of Refuge in April 2007. Using a model developed by our partner in the Shahrazad/City of Refuge programme, Stockholm, we will be working with media partners and writers to develop a series of workshops designed to enable young people to produce their own 3-5 minute digital stories. Using music, image and new technologies, the workshops will focus on issues around asylum, freedom of speech, belonging, identity and refugee rights to enable young people to explore the underlying shared experiences/emotions of resident and new communities. The work will be distributed and shared on websites in the UK and in Europe.
Shahrazad Letters to Europe project
Letters to Europe is a project designed to get young people thinking together, and with writers from within the region and nationally and internationally too, about the future of our country and of Europe generally with regard to issues of asylum, refugees and how resident and new communities interact. We will work with established writers (including refugee and asylum seeking writers) to produce a series of Letters to Europe. These letters will express their hopes for the future of Europe and will be translated in the languages of the other Shahrazad partners. The letters will be used in schools and events to generate responses from people throughout Norfolk and the shared resource will be used as a basis for virtual and real exhibitions and shared media work.