Dunedin's best-known literary connection might be Scotland's national poet, Robbie Burns. Apart from the famous statue, his nephew, Dr Thomas Burns, was one of the city's founding fathers.

However the city has a long and rich literary history, recognised with the honour of New Zealand's first Unesco City of Literature in 2014.

City of Literature status is one of seven designations within the Unesco Creative Cities Network. Others include gastronomy, design, music and film.

With the award, opportunities for international collaboration and partnerships have grown.


Dunedin-based writer and editor David Howard's secured a writer's residency in Prague this year, for writers connected to a Unesco City of Literature.

Emma Neale's poem Little by Little has been showcased alongside other Cities of Literature poets in a street illumination project in Krakow, Poland.

Dunedin was the eleventh city to receive the honour, alongside Edinburgh, Melbourne, Prague, Norwich, Reykjavick, Krakow, Heidleberg, Dublin, Granada and Prague. Nine cities including Baghdad, Barcelona and Montevideo joined the network last month.

Over the year since Dunedin's designation was confirmed, there have been invitations to attend international gatherings across the network, contributions to innovative international poetry projects, social media opportunities and residencies.

A "literature and light" themed Vogel St party in Dunedin in October became a celebration of poetry gathered from other cities of literature, as well as local writers. More than 10,000 people attended the celebration.

This year, there are a number of literary-linked festivals. Burns' birthday, January 25, is celebrated with a performance by finalists in the Robert Burns' Poetry and Robbie Rocks competitions, along with a Burns Supper.

In May, Dunedin's Writers and Readers Festival features high-profile international and New Zealand writers. In the same month, the Regent 24-Hour Book Sale is the largest sale of secondhand books in New Zealand, and reputedly the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Two unique events are October's Otago Festival of the Arts and Scienteller Festival.

The arts festival envelops Dunedin in a whirlwind of music, theatre, dance, comedy and literature, among other events.

ScienceTeller is a biennial event celebrating storytelling and science dedicated to documentary filmmaking, writing and other creative media. A feast of stories about science are told in original, entertaining and thought-provoking ways. The programme combines public screenings, events and workshops with international guests.

See: cityofliterature.co.nz