Ali Bowden celebrates a degree of success

ONE of Scotland’s ­leading champions of literature and literary ­tourism has been honoured by ­Edinburgh Napier University.

Ali Bowden was awarded an honorary degree. Picture: Jon Savage
Ali Bowden was awarded an honorary degree. Picture: Jon Savage

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.

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, 46, joined hundreds of students at the School of Arts & Creative Industries graduation ceremony in the Usher Hall to receive her honorary degree.

She 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, while also 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.”