Lillehammer (pop. 26,900) is the seat of Oppland County in Eastern Norway. Lillehammer's first appearance in world literature was in Haakon Haakonarson's saga in 1260. Famous for its relaxing atmosphere and soothing qualities, the city became a favourite destination for painters and writers in the 19th century, such as Gustav Fröding, Claude Monet and Nobel laureates in Literature Knut Hamsun, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Sigrid Undset. The Norwegian Culture Index, which monitors the culture activity and impact, ranks Lillehammer as number 5 among 428 municipalities.
Insisting on the qualities of small town life combined with a global outlook, Lillehammer is keen to further develop its historical role as an internationally-oriented city. The city organises the Norwegian Festival of Literature; the largest of its kind in Scandinavia. In 2015, Lillehammer hosted the 9th Global Investigative Journalism Conference and two years later opened its doors to a major conference on behalf of PEN International and the ICORN Network. In 2020, Lillehammer will host the 33rd International Publishers' World Conference. The Norwegian Festival of Literature has also launched a residency for a chosen international author, based at Bjerkebæk, home of Nobel laureate in Literature Sigrid Undset. This effort is a natural extension of Lillehammer's increased commitment as an International City of Refuge and a UNESCO Creative City of Literature.
In recent years, the Lillehammer Municipal Council has been implementing a new cultural strategy, stating that arts and culture should be the cornerstone in the future development of Lillehammer, both as a tool for the improvement of quality of life, as well as social and economic sustainability. Lillehammer is already a national powerhouse for the production, innovation and dissemination of culture; especially when it comes to literature. Norway's unique literary system, providing public economic incentives for the production and dissemination of literature for children and young people, is at the centre of Lillehammer's ambitions going forward.
As a Creative City of Literature, Lillehammer envisages:
- inviting other cities to develop strategies for advancing youth readership;
- undertaking the 'Small Shoes, Tall Tales' cross-disciplinary initiative, aimed at positioning the city as an international hub for storytelling for children and young people;
- expanding the Lillehammer House of Literature further by creating additional co-working spaces;
- exploring literary practices as levers for dialogue and peace through the Loud, Clear and Listening project;
- following the establishment of a combined school, education centre and library in the village of Takukot in Nepal, developed in partnership between NGO READ Nepal;
- advancing freedom of speech in a digital age through the ICORN Network, working together with other Creative Cities and International Cities of Refuge; and
- exploring and expanding the intersections between literature and film by sharing best practices.