Located in the centre of the Netherlands, Utrecht (340,000 inhabitants) is known to be home to Utrecht Psalter, a 9th century masterpiece of Carolingian art; considered by some to be the most valuable manuscript in the Netherlands. The city's favourable literary climate attracted writers and thinkers like Descartes, Locke and Hegel, and as early as the 16th century, female writers were part of the intellectual circuits. Utrecht is known as the city of Miffy – millions of children have learnt how to read thanks to this world-famous picture book figure from writer and artist Dick Bruna. This inspired Utrecht City of Literature’s motto: ‘City where you learn to read’. Utrecht forms the economic heart of Dutch literature with profits of US$93 million.
The Dutch Poetry Night is the biggest poetry event in the Netherlands. Organised annually since 1980 in the TivoliVredenburg concert hall, the event lasts around eight hours and sees performances by 20 poets in front of an audience of around 2,000 people. As the only festival in the Netherlands solely supporting classical literary heritage, the Literary Masters festival takes place in Utrecht and focuses on a variety of great names from the international artistic scene, such as Fernando Pessoa, Federico García Lorca, J. Slauerhoff and Ernest Hemingway.
Considering literature to be a key component of the city’s identity-building, the Municipality has undertaken a promotional campaign in which more than 150 locations throughout the city have been adorned with poetry and literary artworks. Utrecht is also strongly committed to achieving, at a locally level, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The city aims to accomplish this through the administrative process of the Municipality by setting up a monitoring system and embedding goals in strategic planning.
As a Creative City of Literature, Utrecht envisages:
- opening a new branch of Utrecht Library by 2019, which will combine literary events and activities focused on overcoming functional illiteracy and promoting self-reliance in groups of vulnerable people, through education and debates;
- planning a new annual literary festival proposing a large book market along the city's canals;
- participating in CITY; a centre dedicated to visual culture to be launched in 2020, which will feature activities at the intersection of image and text;
- extending the Who We Are initiative to other Creative Cities; a series of programmes and book editions focusing on intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding;
- promoting artistic mobility through the Writers' House and Writers in Residence initiatives; and
- collaborating with the Centre of Expertise for Literary Translation to organise literature workshops and masterclasses targeting young professionals