Mayor's Plenipotentiary, editor in chief
In Gdańsk, where ideals rooted in history, such as freedom, equality, dignity and solidarity, are woven into the city’s very fabric, we believe that strengthening the most important values is done by responsible use of words and by literature.
A reading society is a better society. Advancing literature and promoting readership builds an engaged civic society (sensitive to others, nurturing democracy), develops critical faculties – tools essential in a time of post-truth and artificial intelligence – and teaches how to use language in a conscious and not harmful way. Being responsible for words, we also want to commemorate President of Gdańsk Paweł Adamowicz who was murdered in 2019 after a concentrated propaganda attack.
In accordance with the UCCN Mission Statement, Gd. plans to develop broader opportunities for writers and editors, improve access to literature for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals, integrate a long term plan for incorporating literature into local strategies.
Preparations for joining the Creative Cities Network began in Gdańsk several years ago. In recognition of the city and its people’s achievements in the field of literature, in the autumn of 2021 we received letters inviting us to launch the application process from the Network’s member cities Vilnius and Krakow. In these letters our partners highlighted the significance of distinguished authors from Gdańsk, as well as local events, independent entities and institutions. In December 2021 the President of Gdańsk appointed a special representative for the program. Next, a widescale (8 meetings, over 140 participants) public consultation was conducted, with invitations issued to writers, librarians, publishers, organizers of literary life – representatives of the private sector, civil society and academia. Sociological research of the literary landscape of Gdańsk and Tricity was also initiated.
For the purposes of preparatory work, consultation meetings and artistic and social programs, in May 2022 the President of Gdańsk allocated rooms in the former Russian House located at 35 Długa Street. Regular activities have been taking place in this venue since November 2022
Current challenges in the literary field often stem from the crisis of the publishing model; the decline of the literary press together with the lack of opportunity to create quality publications poses another serious problem. To address this issue a new literary portal was launched in 2022. The portal, which hires professional editors, is dedicated to the Tricity literature, and its development is one of the city’s creative priorities in the coming years.
City of Literature (miastoliteratury.com) is an online magazine focused on the local culture, its prominent figures and literary events. It co-creates, integrates and comments on the literary life of Gdańsk, giving a voice to artists, translators and critics connected with Tricity. The magazine also functions as an objective financial support mechanism as it pays fees to its authors. It publishes pieces on current affairs and literary texts building the narrative of literary Gdańsk, critical analyses, essays, and reports from various events. For organizers of literary activity, it serves as a promotion site: it runs a cultural calendar, which helps build audiences for literary events. Before its launch in 2022, the project was consulted with the literary community (institutions, publishers, authors and associations) to better answer its needs. Since then it has published around 100 pieces by almost 50 authors, including critical texts, essays, columns, interviews and literary works (prose and poetry). After joining the Network one of the magazine’s goals is to create its English and Ukrainian versions.
House of Literature
Planning its accession to Creative Cities Network, Gdańsk has decided to allocate the 17th-century orphanage – one of the most interesting old social buildings in the city and one of few monuments that have survived the destruction of the city by the Soviet Army – for the future House of Literature headquarters. Renovation of this unique edifice and the process of adapting it to its new cultural and tourist function are already underway and expected to finish in 2026. There will be a permanent exhibition there, dedicated to Gdańsk’s literary traditions, and the city literary archive. The international residency program will be run from here. The House will be an interdisciplinary enterprise, helping build a synergy of literature and other arts and crafts, with special emphasis put on cooperation between professionals from the fields of literature, film, theatre and fine arts.
Free Word, a program conceived during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is angled toward cooperation, support, and increasing visibility of creators, trends, and strategies present in the contemporary culture of Ukraine in the international context, seen from the perspective of Poland as a neighboring country, and Gdańsk as a city with a bold, modern approach to its cultural and social policy, informed by unique traditions of freedom and solidarity. The war and the resulting humanitarian and environmental cataclysm upended language and the order of things. Words are changing their meaning, and plans and expected results are disrupted, along with formerly recognized patterns and presumptions regarding culture. The program will be coordinated with Lviv and Odesa.