UNESCO launched the World Book Capital scheme in 2001, in order to acknowledge the best programme by a city to promote books and encourage reading. Madrid was the first to be awarded the title and has been followed by cities as diverse as Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Montreal, Bogotá, Amsterdam, Beirut and, most recently, Bangkok.
Oxford is bidding for the prestigious designation in 2014, and if successful the city will host a year-long programme of events for residents and visitors to take part in. By bringing together readers, writers, publishers, illustrators, booksellers and libraries in a celebration of books and reading, the programme will assert the importance of the written word – both in printed form and virtually – in strands including education, information and entertainment.
Oxford has unparalleled resources to support a programme of this kind. It is home to world renowned publishing and bookselling enterprises, and there are probably more major published authors based in or around Oxford than in any other comparable city in the world. It also boasts a strong reading public, an established literary festival and holds a unique place in the history of children’s literature.
Amongst the exciting and forward looking programme for Oxford’s World Book Capital year will be a number of signature moments, including the redesign and opening of the Bodleian Weston Library and the completion of the Story Museum, a magical new centre of children’s literature and storytelling. The bid also aims to highlight literacy attainment in schools and encourage reading for enjoyment.