Exeter is a city in Devonshire, with a population of 130,000. Once a centre of world trade in the 1700s, the city is now considered an emerging creative tech and literary hub. As well as having a rich heritage linked with some of the country’s most famous writers, including Agatha Christie, Ted Hughes, Daphne du Maurier and Charles Causley, its 1,000-year-old Cathedral houses The Exeter Book, a 10th century anthology described as 'the foundation volume of English Literature'. Thanks to the city’s dedication to literacy promotion, small presses continue to thrive in the area, despite the market downturn in other regions, and now the local creative industry contributes over $US 17million gross value added to the City, as well as providing 2,750 jobs.
In order to promote and support literature within the region, The Exeter Literacy Festival, held for the first time in 2017, has become one of the major showcases for established and new literary talent, from local and nationwide authors. Through partnerships between local libraries and associations, including Creative Writing Matters, Exeter Author’s Association and The Historical Novel Society, Exeter aims to promote literature to a pan-generational audience and inspire future writers.
To ensure the continued growth and success of the literary market within Exeter, Arts Council England (ACE) is investing US$ 7million into 5 regional, literary organizations between 2018 and 2022, as well as offering project grants of £300k. This financial provision follows generous contributions in 2018, in which ACE national portfolio [NPO] funded Libraries Unlimited, an initiative which provided a literary outreach within city and countywide. ACE’s Business Plan to 2020 pledges to invest more into literature, specifically in the region. Furthermore, its public libraries are considered as a model to follow in the country.
As a Creative City of Literature, Exeter envisages:
- connecting readers and writers in the South-West region to all Creative Cities of Literature, transforming Custom House on Exeter’s Quayside as a Literature Hub, joining forces with the world network of such houses for writer exchanges;
- enriching world literature through co-founding a Creative Writing Institute in East Africa, a partnership between the University of Exeter, Kwani Trust and National University of Rwanda;
- enabling 10,000 residents to become healthy readers and writers through Wellbeing Words’ cultural prescribing model; sharing method and output internationally; and
- engaging with international youths and forging new city partnerships through new writing challenges, by way of sharing creative solutions to climate change.