World City of Literature

Literature is defined as writings in which expression and form in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest are characteristic or essential features.

Imagining the World City of Literature

Literacy, literature, the art of language, and our ability to create connections with one another and for one another are the foundation for our cultural and human development, our creative evolution, and our ability to create possibilities for our future.

It is in our common interest to improve our ability to create connections and increase our understanding and appreciation for one another, discover the experiences, ideas, and interests we have in common, and learn from our different experiences, ideas, and contributions to create a better experience of life for ourselves and for one another.

Our stories are how we create connections with one another. Our body of literature is our creative resource for learning the art of exploring stories, the art of creative story telling, and the art of creating connections with one another, and for one another, and for our community around our common human interests and around our imagination of our creative possibilities for our future.

Literature is defined as the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people.

The story so far

The World City of Literature as a creative community centre began with an idea from Alma Lee, the founder of the Vancouver Writers Festival, who thought Vancouver could benefit from being recognized by UNESCO as a World City of Literature. The idea was proposed to Vancouver City Council whose interest and support was necessary for the application and to begin the conversation with UNESCO

Vancouver as a World City of Literature

Vancouver has grown to become one of the world’s most beautiful and vibrant cities with a strong literary heritage that reflects its diverse ethnic and indigenous populations. Our natural environment of mountains, sea, and coastlines has inspired writers who express the diversity of our cultures in all literary forms.

Vancouver is home to a community of talented award-winning writers and publishers and a dynamic book-selling community. Our universities and colleges provide the most respected creative writing and publishing programs in Canada.

The city celebrates its literary traditions by hosting international and community events that bring writers and publishers, from Vancouver and other countries, to an enthusiastic local public. An internationally acclaimed architect designed the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, the site of Vancouver’s annual Word on the Street Festival.

Vancouver is ready to further enhance, celebrate, and contribute the richness of our cultures through our writing, publishing and literary community. Achieving the UNESCO World City of Literature designation for Vancouver could be a catalyst to excite new literary undertakings.

Creative idea from Alma Lee

The proposal failed to excite the interest and support of Vancouver City Council so the conversation moved to exciting the community of Vancouver writers, publishers, readers, learning institutions, business and community enterprises, and other contributors who could benefit from the UNESCO recognition to explore ideas about how we could demonstrate  Vancouver is a world city of literature and connect and create community with and for other world city of literature communities.

Our common interests and some ideas about what we could do to demonstrate Vancouver is a world city for literature were articulated and published on the Vancouver Arts and Culture Forum, now the Vancouver Arts Forum, to begin the conversation.

Our Common Interests

Our common interests are to recognize and celebrate our writers and our publishing contributions, encourage our culturally diverse literary communities to continue to contribute to the world of literature, excite interest in reading, writing, literary activities, and world literacy, and stimulate our community growth by demonstrating Vancouver is a world city of literature.


contributions for children and families
  • creating scholarships for young writers with winning entries published in an anthology
  • creating culturally, geographically, and language specific programs to encourage new writers
  • creating and supporting literary initiatives that promote our culturally diverse writers
  • encouraging our publishers to publish in multiple languages
  • providing easy access to books through community groups where people can read about topics of interest to them, in English and in other languages
  • encouraging book clubs in daycare centres, pre-schools, and elementary and high schools.
    creating book clubs for parents to help increase their literacy and encourage a culture of reading in their homes.
contributions for the community
  • including poetry as a form of public art displayed throughout the City
  • creating “Poetry in the Park” and Poetry Walks or Reading Walks, like the Alan Twigg’s literary walk
  • continuing to highlight and support the growth of events like the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival and Word on the Street
  • collaborating to create more literary events in the City including an annual two week Literary Celebration
  • promoting the celebration of writers in cultural festivals, for instance celebrating Japanese Canadian writers at the Powell Street Festival
  • publishing a Calendar of Literary Events.
contributions for visitors
  • placing books by our authors in our hotel rooms for purchase
  • working with interest groups in the wine, food, hospitality and adventure industries to create ideas and experiences
  • promoting literary events in Vancouver with travel agencies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and South Africa
  • developing and promoting a Writer’s Retreat Guesthouse
  • determining how our literary resources and community can contribute to the interests of 2010 Legacies Now.
contributions for the world
  • establishing literary exchanges between writers in Vancouver and writers in other international literary centres
  • exporting our talent to contribute to creating successful literary festivals in other parts of the world
  • participating in UNESCO World City of Literature events, collaborating with the World Cities of Literature network, and working with other cities with strong literary foundations to contribute to building a strong global literary community.
creating for the future
  • creating as a communication centre showcasing Vancouver’s literary activities and contributions to the world
  • exciting the interest of other world cities of literature to connect, showcase their contributions, and contribute their ideas to the conversation
  • exploring ideas as a community on what we could do to increase our appreciation and understanding of the contribution of literature to creating community, to exciting our imagination and enterprise, to increasing our probability of creating possibilities for our future, and to our cultural evolution, our creative journey, and our creative story.
  • contributing to increase the size of our community of interest in our world body of literature and increase the contribution of our world body of literature to our ability to create connections, excite interest in the contribution of literature to our individual and social development, to our cultural and creative evolution, to our creative journey, and to our creative story.

Literature is defined as the body of writings on a particular subject.

Story hosted by Book Warehouse

The opportunity

In July 2006, a place for the was created in our theatre of the new world as a creative community centre to excite interest in imagining possibilities for the World City of Literature and in exploring ideas to connect our community and our contributions to our body of literature to our creative interests

The World City of Literature is an open source library, a creative commons for exploring the art of language, and an open space for creating connections and creative community enterprise around opportunities to increase literacy, excite interest in reading, and increase our understanding and appreciation for the contribution of literature to our cultural development and our common human interests.

In December 2011, a place was also created for the Centre for Literature as a creative community centre for exploring how literature has contributed to our creative and cultural evolution and how our understanding of the contributions of literature could contribute to creating a new world and to creating possibilities for the future of our world.

Definitions of literature courtesy of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Where we are now


Creative communities

Creative Vancouver
Centre for Literature
Centre for Canadian Literature
Centre for Literacy
Writers and Ideas
Vancouver Writers Community
Writers Community Network
Readers Community Network
Creating Connections with Stories
Creating Community with Stories


Vancouver International Writers Festival
BC Bookworld
ABC Bookworld
Word Vancouver
Ronsdale Press
Talon Books
Raincoast Books
New Star Books
Harbour Publishing
Douglas & McIntyre
Granville Island Publishing
Arsenal Pulp Press
New Society Publishers
Greystone Books
Oolichan Books
UBC Press
Heritage House Publishing
Anvil Press
Annick Press
Mother Tongue Publishing
Jewish Book Festival
Banyen Books and Sound
The Literary Press Group

Ideas and opportunities

Downtown Eastside Writers in Residence Experience
Vancouver International Crime Fiction Festival
The Next Chapters