Discover more about literary tourism in each of the countries in the NPA region.

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Ireland is home to a rich history of literature and literary icons, it is recognised worldwide as a nation of writers, poets and playwrights with no fewer than four Nobel Laureates for Literature in George Bernard Shaw, Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett and W.B. Yeats and its capital city, Dublin a UNESCO City of Literature, home to Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and many more.

Literary tourism is a core element of Ireland’s tourism brand spanning festivals, immersive experiences, attractions, landmarks, tours, summer schools and educational aspects. A multitude of literary places associated with writers and poets offer the visitor a wealth of literary tourism experiences from dedicated literary festivals to sites associated with literary works or the lives of writers.

Specifically in the West of Ireland in the area which forms part of the NPA region Sligo and Galway deliver a significant sense of place associated with the poet W.B. Yeats and have developed a range of literary specific experiences for the culturally motivated and general tourist market. Within the NPA region of Ireland connectivity to literary icons is equally evident with a distinct connection between W.B. Yeats and Sligo, Pádraig Ó Conaire and Galway, Douglas Hyde and Roscommon, John McGahern and Leitrim amongst others.

Over the years literature has formed an important aspect of Irish culture and literary tourism development has centred around the great writers, playwrights and poets of old, however new approaches to literary tourism development which link more contemporary players in Irish literature are evident in such events as the Cúirt Festival of Literature and multi-disciplinary arts programmes and festivals.

Educational programmes in tourism within the western region are also developing new curricular content which incorporates the literary tourism agenda – specifically in the Sligo Institute of Technology. The Western Development Commission are responsible for Spot-lit Project Communications together with helping SMEs to increase market reach beyond local markets through the ‘Development and Delivery of a Literary Tourism SME Development Programme’.

Northern Ireland’s literary culture and heritage is strong, offering many locations which inspired a multitude of writers.

Home to literary giants including; Heaney, Beckett, Lewis and Friel, each of these writers are memorialised through a series of different literary tourism experiences available across the state.

Examples include:

  • Poet Seamus Heaney whose writing bears the impact of his surroundings in Londonderry. The places he immortalised in his literature are celebrated at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy – where he came from, where he wrote about, and where he is buried.
  • Playwright Samuel Beckett whose life and works are celebrated at the annual, Happy Days International Beckett Festival in Enniskillen.
  • Author C.S. Lewis where the C.S. Lewis Experience brings you on a tour of east Belfast following in the footsteps of the author. Walk in the Mourne Mountains which provided the inspiration for his Chronicles of Narnia, take an Authentic Ulster tour, or attend the C.S. Lewis Festival in November each year.
  • Playwright Brian Friel whose work is celebrated at the annual Frielfest held in his hometown of Derry.

The Kalevala, compiled by Elias Lonnrot in the 19th century is a cornerstone of the Finnish nation; an epic poem that cemented the Finnish language in writing and initiated a tide of nationalism that eventually resulted in Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917.

Kalevala is based on the oral culture of the inland provinces of Finland and the Russian Karelia, that were compiled together by Elias Lönnrot, who was a doctor based in Kajaani at that time, responsible for the whole Kainuu region in Northern Finland, next to the Russian border. Since its first publications in 1835 and 1849, the Kalevala became the most translated book in Finland.  Besides compiling the Kalevala, the impact of Elias Lönnrot on the development of the modern vocabulary in Finnish was actually very important.

You may see references to Kalevala in names of people, places and businesses even today and literary events relating to the Kalevala remain popular. Lately, the Kalevala has fueled creativity of several artists in new ways, and one goal of Spot-lit is to support such development in the Kainuu region.

Today Finland is one of the top countries in the world in the field of library services. Libraries have an important and versatile cultivating and cultural role in Finland, providing everyone with equal access to culture and information and support civic knowledge. Supported by the country’s praised education system, Finland is also one of the world’s most literate nation, and according to some researches, the most literate nation!

A number of multi-disciplinary festivals dedicated to literature or which feature literary events, are held annually across the country, including Words and Music (Kajaanin Runoviikko – Sana ja Sävel) in Kajaani in the NPA partner region.

Most of the well-known writers from Finland either lived or were born in the and remained there for their lives; so in terms of literary tourism, the main attractions for this market are located in and around the capital city Helsinki and the southern part of the country.

The Finnish Literary Association, FILI present opportunities for internationalisation of the Finnish literary tradition and contemporary voices via its representation at international book fairs including the Frankfurt Book Fair. Finland is only second to Iceland in the publication of new titles annually with up to 14,000 books published annually in three languages Finnish, Swedish and Samí.

Lapland in North Finland is home to the Sami people. In this cultural tradition literature is broader than the written word and creates linkages between tradition and innovation. Evidence of this is apparent in the relationship between the traditional epic yoik songs and contemporary poetry with several Sami artists utilising multimedia approaches for their creative expression, with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää (winner of the Nordic Council’s Prize for Literature,1991) significant in this regard. Valkeapää is credited as revitalising Sami cultural expression in innovative and creative forms providing an expression of Sami cultural history and the richness of language in his works as specifically in his combined traditional yoik performed with modern instruments and popular music.

Finland is also home to a collaborative model of tourism and education development in its Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI) in Lapland. MTI combines the knowledge base of the Lapland Tourism College, University of Lapland and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences and incorporates a student body of over 1200 tourism students annually. Established in 2009, MTI has pursued cooperation between institutions at different levels in teaching, research and tourism service activities. In developing education and research in tourism, MTI cooperates closely with the business community in Lapland, the international scientific community, and the relevant educational organisations and authorities. Cooperation of this nature which blurs the boundaries between institutions is unique in Finland and rare internationally, seeking to deliver a cradle-to-grave approach to sustainable tourism development.

Scotland has a very well-developed literature ecosystem in place comprising, writing, reading, publishing, festivals, events literary trails etc. It is arguably the leading literary tourism location across the United Kingdom. In 2004 Edinburgh was designated as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

In its initial stages the initiative was backed by both the Scottish Arts Council (now Creative Scotland) and the Scottish Executive. An independent charity was set up; The City of Literature Trust. The City of Literature Trust works to promote literary Edinburgh; champion Scotland’s literature and develop international literary partnerships. In addition to the role played by Creative Scotland and The City of Literature Trust in promoting literary tourism, there is clear evidence of a working partnership between these agencies and VisitScotland. ‘The year of Creative Scotland 2012’ was an initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. £6.5 million of National Lottery funding was invested in this programme, and it has been followed by annual ‘theme years”, such as 2017’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology which Scotland’s literary tourism sector has tapped into35. It was but one of many interagency initiatives aimed at expanding cultural tourism in Scotland. The Scottish Government also plays an important and direct role in development and funding of these initiatives.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival, which claims to be the world’s most international book festival, held more than 1,000 events in 2017. Its success was one of the key drivers in attaining the UNESCO City of Literature status for the city. Its audience in was 250,000 plus in 2015, highlighting the potential for an event to develop to this scale in just over 20 years.

Scotland is home to a range of internationally recognised literary greats (from past times and in current writers). Association with these individuals provides a range of tourism experiences for general and literary specific tourists form International literary festivals to tours, events, mobile applications, illuminated tours of literary landmarks and literary places and landscapes and events etc. Literary tourism in Scotland is well-developed, with proven backing of the literary sector, and has impacted on Scotland’s economy. The UNESCO City of literature designation for Edinburgh (the first of such designations) is the shining star in Scotland’s literary sector. Its coordination of activities, events, relationships, inter-agency working and future-facing agenda leverages investment in the sector and promotes it to a global audience. New and developmental agendas and programmes by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature embrace digital technologies and platforms to connect people with place and expand that global reach.

Despite being a relatively small country, Scotland supports a diverse and growing range of festivals, many of which take place in peripheral areas. In the past decades additions have included Boswell Festival, Ayrshire “the world’s first festival of biography” and Bloody Scotland, crime-writing event in Stirling that has grown swiftly since its establishment, capitalising on Scotland’s “tartan noir” genre of writers (e.g. Ian Rankin, Val McDermid) but also inviting connections with the flourishing Scandinavian crime-writing scene. In particular Scotland’s rural peripheries and islands – from Wigtown and Ullapool, to Shetland and Islay – have embraced the possibilities of the literary festival to enhance tourism, especially in the shoulder season and this has been supported by the nation’s tourism agency, VisitScotland (through EventScotland) and by the arts agency, Creative Scotland.

Wigtown, in Dumfries & Galloway, is a notable example of this trend. Basing itself on the model of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, since 1998 it has marketed itself as Scotland’s National Book Town (part of the international Book Town movement), offering a cluster of around a dozen bookshops and associated SMEs. Community regeneration – economic and social – has been at the heart of this project: currently more than100 volunteers in a town of just under 1,000 people contribute to the project. At its core is the development of new and diverse audiences for literature and creating opportunities locally for engagement in literature for young people and as a destination for cultural and literary tourism. Wigtown Book Festival’s attendance grew 18% between 2014 and 2016. Total attendance now stands at 24,594 with 11,225 unique visitors. An independent economic impact survey found that the festival has created £2.1m for D&G’s economy and that the event had a 23:1 return on public investment, 40 highlighting the potential which niche festivals can have on local economies and indeed those in peripheral areas. One of Wigtown Festival Company’s latest initiatives is The Open Book, an Airbnb experience that allows visitors to run a bookshop in Wigtown during their stay. The Open Book is fully booked until 2021 and has garnered media attention from around the world, helping raise the profile of the Wigtown and create a network of international cheerleaders for Wigtown.”

Elsewhere in Dumfries & Galloway, the Peter Pan Moat Brae Experience is being developed in the townhouse in Dumfries & Galloway where J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, played as a child, will deliver an immersive experience for children as an enchanted land of children’s stories and to with the intention of becoming the `national centre for Children’s Literature and Story-telling. The Peter Pan Moat Brae project presents an opportunity to address issues relating to the lack of cultural facilities and opportunities and the other challenges associated with rural living, including the development of enterprise. Moat Brae when completed has the potential to attract in excess of 45,000 visitors to Dumfries annually, which in turn, will protect existing jobs whilst creating an estimated 40 new jobs locally.

Iceland’s capital city Reykjavík is home to UNESCO’s 5th City of Literature designation and also home to Icelandic medieval literature, including the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda (medieval Icelandic text). This literary heritage is a central part of the nation’s cultural identity with story-telling an important part of its cultural history.

Iceland has only around 330.000 inhabitants and very few speakers of the Icelandic language beyond the country. Literature plays a vital role in cultivating the language which undergoes constant renewal and development in fiction in particular. The new World Language Centre, which opened in 2017 and which has at its core the objective to encourage language skills and cultural literacy in Iceland, works in close partnership with Reykjavík UNECSO City of Literature.

Several Reykjavík writers have received international acclaim with Halldór Laxness awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. A number of writers have won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, among them are; Thor Vilhjálmsson, Einar Már Guðmundsson and Sjón, with Guðrún Helgadóttir, Kristín Steinsdóttir and Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir winners of The Nordic Children’s Literature Prize. Contemporary Icelandic writers are published in increased number in translations throughout the world. Literary publishing in Iceland is also a booming industry with five titles published per every 1.000 Icelanders annually.

Reykjavík is home to a range of literary festivals and events including: Reykjavík International Literature Festival, held biannually and attracting internationally-acclaimed authors from Europe and beyond. The Moorland International Children’s and Youth Literature Festival also held biannually. Literature forms an integral part of the programmes for the Reykjavík Arts Festival, Reykjavík Culture Night, Winter Lights Festival and the Reykjavík Children’s Culture people in different ways.

Beyond Reykjavik the other key area in Iceland where a literary tradition is evident and accessible to visitors is in the north in Akureyri with the Akureyri Museum again preserving and promoting the Icelandic myths and sagas.

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