State Library of Victoria in Melbourne
State Library of Victoria by animm on Flickr

Last month, my favourite city Dublin, was appointed the fourth UNESCO City of Literature. Dublin joins Edinburgh, Iowa City and my hometown Melbourne, in UNESCO’s growing creative cities network.

To become a City of Literature, cities must make an application to UNESCO based on criteria that demonstrate their diversity in creating and promoting literary works.

Melbourne is considered by many to be the ‘cultural capital’ of Australia, and was appointed the second UNESCO City of Literature in August 2008.

Our City of Literature is built upon land that traditionally belongs to the Indigenous people of the Kulin Nation; they have been writing their stories for over 40,000 years. These stories are expressed through bark paintings, rock carvings and possum skin drawings, that are part of a local indigenous literature providing a voice to Melbourne’s indigenous culture.

Here are 5 literary facts you may not know about Melbourne:

1. The State Library of Victoria is the state’s oldest publicly funded cultural institution and the oldest free public library in the country. It’s visited by around 1.1 million people each year and the front steps and grassy slopes of the library make a popular lunch spot for Melbournians.

2. Melbourne has more bookshops per head of population than anywhere else in Australia. One of my favourites is the quirky, Minotaur, which specialises in pop culture and sells comics, magazines, music, television and movies from around the world.

3. Melbournians borrow more books from their local libraries than readers in any other Australian city. There are also a number of established book groups including a few that operate as part of the Fed Square book club. They meet on the second Saturday of every month and meetings often coincide with the Saturday book market.

4. Many successful novelists and poets have called Melbourne home, including Booker prize-winner Peter Carey. Today a third of Australia’s writers live in Melbourne (approximately 1,300) and many more enjoy writing as a hobby (97,600).

5. Melbourne holds a range of literary festivals including the Overload Poetry Festival, the Alfred Deakin Innovation Lectures, the Emerging Writers’ Festival and the upcoming Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

Resource: UNESCO

Which city would you nominate to be the next UNESCO City of Literature? Why?

Read more:
The end of Australian writing?
An Australian’s pilgrimage to Gallipoli
Bloomsday in Dublin – it’s all about Joyce

About the author

After two years overseas discovering Irish family and foreign cultures, Rebecca has recently returned home to Melbourne. She was inspired to share Australian culture after getting exposure to how others live through her travels.