Edinburgh’s New Town to celebrate literary history

Robert Fergusson's words will be used. Picture: Julie Bull
Robert Fergusson's words will be used. Picture: Julie Bull
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FAMOUS quotations from Enlightenment figures will be beamed on to buildings throughout Edinburgh’s New Town as part of a new campaign to raise the profile of the capital’s world city of literature status.

Rose Street, George Street, Charlotte Square and St Andrew Square will all feature in the £100,000 Enlighten project, which will see specially-commissioned pieces of animation inspired by the quotes brighten up the city’s streets.

Geologist James Hutton will have his words up in lights. Picture: Getty

Geologist James Hutton will have his words up in lights. Picture: Getty

The projections – which will feature the words of David Hume, James Hutton, Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Adam Smith and Lady Cockburn – will illuminate entire buildings.

And six modern-day writers have also been commissioned to record pieces of new fiction and poetry which will be available to download during the two-week initiative, along with details of the architectural and literary history of each area.

The Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust, which has instigated the project, said the six writers – Gavin Inglis, William Letford, Kirsty Logan, Ken MacLeod, James Robertson and JL Williams – would be “responding to the wisdom” of the Enlightenment figures.

The project, which is backed by Edinburgh World Heritage and business group Essential Edinburgh, has been specially timed for a two-week period next month in a bid to help boost tourism at a quieter time of year. It is believed to be the first time that sophisticated “projection mapping” has been used for a major cultural project in Scotland.

Its unveiling on 1 March will coincide with the launch of a new campaign aimed at persuading tourism businesses to make more of the city’s literary legacy.

Ali Bowden, director of the city of literature trust, said: “Enlighten will match the architectural brilliance of this historic city with our world renowned literature, and provide an arresting experience for passers-by, both locals and visitors – as well as a focal point for those planning a trip to Edinburgh.”

Iain Munro, director of creative development at Creative Scotland, which has awarded the project £50,000, said: “Enlighten will create a dynamic celebration of our world-renowned literature, set against the architecture of the historical centre of Scotland’s Enlightenment.

“Seeing the city centre lit up and featuring our contemporary writers is sure to be one of the highlights of the Year of Creative Scotland in 2012.”

The separate campaign to encourage hotels, bars and restaurants to generate more business by using the city’s literary legacy will include the publication of a new guide for businesses.

Ms Bowden said: “The guide provides ideas and tips on how to innovate around literary based tourism, helps businesses discover how they can gain competitive advantage by using Edinburgh’s city of literature status, and how they can work with us to enhance the quality of the visitor experience and grow their business.”

Robin Worsnop, chairman of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group said: “As the world’s first Unesco City of Literature, Edinburgh truly is the heart of storytelling. We have been home to some of the greatest authors from Robert Louis Stevenson to Muriel Spark, and remain so to internationally renowned writers including JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin.

“We play host to the world’s largest book festival of its kind, the Scottish International Storytelling Centre sits on our historic Royal Mile, and we have the world’s largest monument to an author among many other literary based attractions.

“Together these assets give us a great platform to attract the ‘literary tourist’, from the very young to the more mature.”

Two years ago, the Carry A Poem initiative in Edinburgh saw lines from famous poems inspired by Edinburgh beamed on to landmark buildings.

• EDINBURGH was widely seen as having scored a major coup when it was designated the world’s first city of literature in 2004.

The successful bid, approved in Paris after then culture minister Patricia Ferguson led a 20-strong delegation from the city, led to the creation of a network of global cities which celebrate, share and develop their literary culture.

The main aims of the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, which was set up to promote the city’s status, include developing literary tourism, promoting Scottish literature and developing new talent.