The city of Leeuwarden, located in the north of the Netherlands in the province of West Friesland, is home to over 123,000 residents. As well as being a creative region with a rich maritime history, today Leeuwarden remains economically significant, representing 25% of Frisian employment. Despite adopting Dutch as its official language in the 1400’s, Leeuwarden is the only province in the Netherlands which continues to practice its traditional language, Frisian. For many years Frisian literature was limited and lacked accreditation due to the fact that as it was a predominantly verbal form of communication, however, in the 1600’s Gysbert Japicx’s poetry and writing supported a revival of the written language.. Modern Leeuwarden continues to support its literary culture and is now hub for publishing infrastructure, including production and distribution, as well as literary translation for minority languages.
To promote and support such work, the city hosted a variety of events in recent years, including the Tosta Festival, initiated by ECoC Donostia-San Sebastian in 2016. This traveling international festival, showcases literature, art, language and music from 7 minority language areas. This multicultural event brings languages such as Frisian to the forefront, increasing awareness and engagement within the community. In 2018, Leeuwarden also hosted the Reading Foundation’s annual congress. The Foundation promotes reading in Dutch and Frisian, and encourages the development of new initiatives, methods and tools for learning these languages.
The city has implemented various local policies and plans to enrich further the local literary environment, especially within the youth groups. The Leeuwarden-Friesland has encouraged and facilitated library policies to promote children’s focused literature. The city has offered scholarships, with additional subsidy schemes for Frisian-language literature and Frisian-language drama. Leeuwarden-Friesland also supports the promotion of Frisian literature on an international scale through the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Frisian publishers annually present a selection of Frisian literature.
As a Creative City of Literature, Leeuwarden envisages:
- endorsing minority literature in translation by organising creative writing programme and translation and writing talent umbrella programmes within the network;
- safeguarding minority language literature and supporting minority language writers through the initiative ‘Production House Explore the North (ETN);
- promoting the role translation can play in reaching new audiences, increasing accessibility and reducing social, linguistic isolation;
- organizing international residency programmes in cooperation with existing Letterenfonds residency programmes; and
- developing the city as a hub for minority language literature and translation; and exemplifying a new approach to translating literature.