THE INTERNATIONAL DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
BUILDING AN INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF WORLD CITY LIBRARIES THROUGH A PRESTIGIOUS LITERARY PRIZE
Dublin has long been famous for its literary figures, and in 1994 the City Council (then called Dublin Corporation) wanted to build on that reputation. Therefore, the Lord Mayor commissioned an expert group, including representatives of Government departments, libraries, universities and other experts, to report on the feasibility of organising a Dublin Literary Award. The prize was established and now attracts entrants from across the world.
The International Dublin Literary Award is the world’s most valuable annual literary prize for a single work of fiction published in English. The nomination process for the Award is unique as nominations are made by libraries in major cities throughout the world. Participating libraries can nominate up to three novels each year. Over 400 library systems in 177 countries worldwide are currently involved, but Dublin City Libraries also actively seeks out and encourages nominations from new countries. In 2018, 150 novels from 111 cities across 37 countries were submitted for consideration.
The prize is sponsored by Dublin City Council, administered by Dublin City Public Libraries with the Lord Mayor of Dublin as the patron of the Award. The €100,000 prize money was provided until 2014 by a trust fund from a private sector sponsor, but when that ended, the City took over financially supporting the prize, which continues to complement Dublin’s strong modern and historical connections to literature. For example, four Nobel Prizes for Literature have been awarded to writers associated with the city and dozens of others, past and present from James Joyce to Seamus Heaney, Colm Tóibín and Anne Enright have an international reputation. International work to promote literature is among the cultural threads which connect Ireland to around 70 million people from the Irish diaspora across the world. The prize also fits with Dublin’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, which it acquired in 2009.
This initiative therefore supports Dublin’s national and international reputation as a ‘City of Words’ where reading, writing and storytelling are embedded in the cultural, social and economic life of the city, its citizens and its visitors.
BRINGING TOGETHER SOCIAL CONNECTIONS, COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES ACROSS THE CITY
Dublin developed a five year Cultural Strategy (2016–2021) as part of its bid to be European Capital of Culture 2020. The policy takes a holistic view, inviting all the city’s communities to take an active part in shaping and enjoying culture. Although the bid for Capital of Culture was unsuccessful, the ‘Dublin Culture Connects’ programme now managed by a new Dublin City Council Culture Company was adopted as a means of strengthening partnerships and including audiences across the city.
The underlying intention of the Cultural Strategy of Dublin City Council is to place culture at the centre of the city’s work and acknowledge its impact on all aspects of Dublin, including the economy, education, tourism, but with a particular emphasis on community and civic life. One strand of the work uses the concept of a ‘National Neighbourhood’, which raises awareness of the cultural assets of the city and invites people to use them through social programming. Another is the Dublin Fundraising Fellowship which helps communities develop fundraising skills. In addition, there is the Cultural Audit & Mapping Project which gives a better understanding of Dublin’s cultural ecology, providing insights which support cultural programming and policy.
The National Neighbourhood strand offers events ranging from singing groups, a creativity day for children and ghostly storytelling sessions, to gardening, traditional music and outreach for specific groups including the deaf community. There are also ‘culture clubs’ led by professionals who accompany groups to museums, galleries and arts venues throughout the year. Each visit ends with a ‘tea and chat’ session which allows people to socialise and discuss what they saw. In this way, the programme invites artists, community groups and even whole villages to meet and engage at libraries, museums and creative spaces – enjoying the resources that are there and also develop new creative outputs themselves. The ‘Culture Connects’ programme is run by the Dublin Culture Connects team in collaboration with many other cultural agencies including libraries, the Arts Office, galleries, museums, theatres, community groups, schools and young people.
Through these interventions, Dublin’s cultural offer has become more tangible and relevant to communities, empowering them to become involved and ultimately allowing them to drive the cultural agenda themselves. ‘Culture Connects’ received a special mention at the Culture 21 International Awards 2018. The jury praised the strategy for making cultural policy work for those who most need it, and for its success in creating cultural empowerment through listening and learning, as well as sharing with local residents.
SHOWCASING CITY CREATIVITY WITH HIGH PROFILE OUT OF HOURS EVENTS
More than a decade ago, the City of Dublin wanted to encourage more people to experience culture in their area and add an air of excitement to this offer by opening up spaces not usually accessible to the public. Therefore in 2006 it staged a pilot ‘Culture Night’ in Dublin, which has since grown into a major national annual event.
On a single night in September, Culture Night takes place across Ireland with out of hours events celebrating culture, creativity and the arts. Cultural organisations and venues of all shapes and sizes are open, including the National Cultural Institutions. Unique events and workshops are programmed and everything is free, enabled by a large group of volunteers and support from funders and partners. In 2017, Culture Night consisted of 3,000 events across 1,400 venues across Ireland including sports clubs, libraries, workshops, churches and outdoor spaces, with events ranging from open air concerts and street performances, as well as museum and gallery programmes. The main organisers are the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin City Council and The Arts Office. Alongside these is a much broader group of Government departments, state agencies, universities, public bodies, broadcasters, transport companies and other civic groups who have gradually come together, enabling the event to grow to its current size.
400,000 people now attend Culture Night and it has captured the public imagination, raising the profile of cultural organisations and their facilities over the rest of the year. It is also an opportunity for the city to showcase the breadth of talent in its creative community. Culture Night complements and contrasts with Dublin’s ‘Culture Connects’ year-round work, by creating a major, unmissable event which engages much of Dublin’s population, the wider Irish public and visitors to the city.