The Norwich Engage! group are getting ready to discover another UNESCO City of Literature. We’re heading to Krakow from April 26th-28th. Myself and Vicki have planned three days of exploring, writing and Polish dining for our group of 15 young people from across Norfolk.
The main purpose of the trip will be for the Engage! young people from Norwich to meet the Engage! Krakow group. Together they will share their experiences as young arts professionals leading projects in the literary arts. I am curious to see what kind of discussions they will have and what will they learn from one another. Questions in my mind are: how does the festival theme of social activism and free speech translate for young people in Poland? Both countries have experienced tensions and tragedies around freedom of expression and the rise of the far right. This generation of young people are highly politicised; what responsibilities and challenges do they face, and what role does the written word have in meeting these challenges? This is an opportunity for passionate and politicised young people to come together and seek solace and answers with one another.
We’ll all be meeting at the Villa Decius in the leafy Krakow suburbs. Built in the 1530s, the Villa has a long history as a meeting place for people of politics, culture and art—an ideal location for the Engage! groups to come together. At the Villa, they will also be taking part in creative workshops led by Norwich poet and performer, Lewis Buxton, and Polish slam poet, Rudka Zydel, whom we are hugely grateful to for sharing their time, talent and knowledge. For the young people, this will complete their literary adventures with an opportunity to create some original work themselves.
We’ll have some time to explore the cafes and bookshops of Krakow, sample some pierogi and hear the trumpet call from St Mary’s Tower. Most importantly, the group will enjoy a break from school and exams before the Engage! Handover Festival of Writing and Social Activism kicks off on May 11th in Norwich.
*We are very grateful to our Polish host, Elżbieta Foltyniak, international projects coordinator at the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature team for helping us arrange our visit with their Polish Engage! group
Text by: HANNAH GARRARD