Writers, arts administrators and politicians from all over the UK and beyond gathered in the party pavillion of the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Friday August 18, 2006, when Norwich and Edinburgh were launched as the first British Cities of Refuge for persecuted writers.
The honourable Lord Provost of Edinburgh opened the reception by welcoming the ICORN initiative. She emphasized Edinburgh's commitment, as the Unesco City of Literature, to take upon the challenge of becoming a City of Refuge. The Lord Provost saluted the city of Norwich for its pioneering work in becoming the first British ICORN city, while promising that Edinburgh would soon follow as the second.
ICORN Project Manager Helge Lunde welcomed the cities of Norwich and Edinburgh to the International Cities of Refuge Network. Outlining the structure and ambitions of the network, he emphasized how meaningful it was to have British cities in the network. Executive director of International PEN Caroline McCormick talked to the audience about the strong links between International PEN and ICORN, mentioning specifically the role International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee plays within the network.
Current Stavanger City of Refuge Guest Writer Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe) reminded the audience of the ideals that form the heart of the ICORN project, through his readings and speech, as well as the mere fact of his physical presence in Edinburgh. Forced to flee his homeland, receiving shelter first in France and now in Norway, Chenjerai Hove has been able to continue developing as a writer, and just as importantly, he has been able to make his voice heard, questioning and challenging the Magabe regime of his homeland from international platforms.