Ali honoured for putting Edinburgh's literary culture on the world stage 

Date posted

31 October 2019


One of Scotland’s leading champions of literature and literary tourism was today honoured by Edinburgh Napier University.

Ali Bowden, Director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of her contribution to the promotion of reading, writing and literary heritage.Hon grad Ali Bowden

University of Stirling graduate Ali enjoyed a ten-year career in publishing with Polygon Books and Edinburgh University Press before becoming Director of the Trust in 2006.

She has played a key role in establishing and developing Edinburgh as a UNESCO City of Literature and founding city in a global network of creative cities.

Passionate about promoting Edinburgh as a literary city, Ali has created projects ranging from community-based writers’ residencies and international exchanges to Scotland’s first citywide reading campaign, the award-winning Great Scott! installation in Waverley railway station honouring Sir Walter Scott, and the Stars & Stories trail of illuminated quotations celebrating 500 years of Edinburgh’s publishing heritage.

In 2011, the City of Literature Trust joined forces with Edinburgh Napier to launch the annual Robert Louis Stevenson Day, the first of many collaborative projects with the University.

The hard work continues, with Ali’s current focus being the creation of a Literature House at John Knox House, as part of a wider development of the Literary Quarter on the Royal Mile. Scheduled to open in 2022, the Literature House is an ambitious project that will be a point of transformation for Edinburgh as a UNESCO City of Literature in terms of profile, access and engagement.

Ali Bowden sitting in John Knox House

Today, she joined hundreds of students at the School of Arts & Creative Industries graduation ceremony in the Usher Hall to receive her Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters.

Ali, 46, said: “I am delighted and truly honoured to receive recognition of this kind. My work over the years has never been easy but has always been interesting, diverse and stimulating.

 “Edinburgh is an outstanding UNESCO City of Literature and it’s a joy to play a part in supporting the reading and writing communities here, and connecting our literary city with like-minded cities around the world.”

Professor Andrea Nolan, Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Edinburgh is a city which is rich in literary heritage, from Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson to the Rebus novels of Ian Rankin, and as the birthplace of JK Rowling’s Boy Wizard, Harry Potter.

“Ali Bowden has spearheaded the drive to make reading part of our lives while promoting the city’s literary connections on the global stage, and it is a pleasure to have her join our celebrations today.”