Jonathan Franzen, Paul Auster, T.C Boyle and Karl Lagerfeld, as well as Charles Aznavour, Kofi Annan and Mikhail Gorbachev — all of them were there. We’re talking about Europe’s biggest literature festival, which takes place in Cologne once a year: lit.COLOGNE. If you’re looking for the emotions evoked when the intellectual world of literature and written culture is enlivened by in-person presence, lit.COLOGNE is the exciting framework where you can find them. Its events are held in unusual places and feature outstanding figures from the world of literature.
Literature in Cologne
Europe’s biggest literature festival
The annual blockbuster event for all lovers of literature
Every spring, up to 200 events attended by almost 100,000 visitors are held over a period of almost two weeks. During this time, lit.COLOGNE offers an extraordinary stage on which all lovers of culture and literature have a chance to encounter one of their favourite authors. You can look forward to an inspiring experience of the literature and themes you’re interested in — at lit.COLOGNE.
From 5 to 17 March 2024 in Cologne
The programme is published and advance ticket sales begin in December every year
lit.COLOGNE, the paradise for literature fans, is held in a variety of locations and interesting venues all over Cologne. There are many events that have been specially planned for the festival, ranging from theme-oriented evening events to readings, individual talks or portraits, and much more. If you want to meet outstanding nonfiction authors, exciting newcomers or Nobel Prize laureates working in varying genres live in Cologne, you’ll have brilliant opportunities at lit.COLOGNE.
The festival is always characterized by a wide spectrum of themes that cut through bestseller lists, mass media and high culture. Thanks to its status as an outstanding annual cultural event, lit.COLOGNE has collected numerous awards in recent years.
For example, a gala event at the WDR-Funkhaus radio hall opens lit.COLOGNE with the presentation of the German Audiobook Prize. The annual programme for the coming year’s event is presented at the beginning of December, and ticket sales also begin at that time. The organizers thoughtfully cater to visitors’ needs. Since 2013, many of the events have been barrier-free. Sign language interpreters, as well as induction loops for hearing aid users, are provided.
For children and young people, lit.COLOGNE offers lit.kid.COLOGNE
Enjoy lit.COLOGNE with the whole family! From the very start, the festival has included a special area designed in detail for kids and teenagers, starting with preschoolers and primary school-age children. The readings are held in immersive venues that bring books together with a real-life environment. The aim is to give young eyes and ears a special experience! There are also readings of great books for school classes. One figure alone shows that the organizers are seriously committed to the idea of making literature fun for a younger audience: in 2022, 78 of the total of 179 events were designed for children and teenagers.
Offshoots of lit.COLOGNE: lit.COLOGNE Special, phil.cologne & lit.Ruhr
Since 2011, lit.COLOGNE Special has been held simultaneously with the Frankfurt Book Fair, thus providing an additional literature festival in the autumn. Another offshoot of lit.COLOGNE, a philosophy festival known as phil.cologne, has been held since 2013. By presenting philosophical dialogues and related events, it offers a broad audience access to philosophy and its real-life themes in a non-university setting. Another event organized by lit.COLOGNE is lit.RUHR, which has been held in the Ruhr region since 2017. Its main venue is the Zollverein coal mine industrial complex in Essen. Like lit.COLOGNE, this festival also offers a programme for children and teenagers: lit.kid.RUHR.
About the history of lit.COLOGNE, held in Cologne since 2001
The concept behind lit.COLOGNE was born in 2000 against the background of the organizers’ dissatisfaction with the way literature was being presented back then. Readings held in bookstores were only attracting small audiences. The organizers felt that book lovers should be able to look forward to a richer experience and a more stimulating atmosphere for encountering authors. A new model was offered by the film, music and theatre scene. The organizers decided to add professional presenters and translators to the mix and to showcase dialogue-oriented literary events more substantively as communicative encounters.
Incidentally, lit.COLOGNE was included in the Guinness Book of Records in 2006 for organizing the world’s biggest German lesson — an event that was held in the sold-out Lanxess Arena.
On the funding of lit.COLOGNE
With tickets, sponsors and partners as sources of funding, lit.COLOGNE operates as a private-sector cultural event. In 2020 the City Council of Cologne safeguarded the continuation of lit.COLOGNE with a grant of €500,000. Thalia Bücher GmbH was a major sponsor until 2020.
Since 2021 there have been cooperative projects between independent bookstores and lit.COLOGNE. The broadcaster WDR and the newspaper Kölner Stadtanzeiger are media partners, and the Imhoff Foundation funds lit.kid.COLOGNE. The main sponsors of the event in 2022 are RheinEnergie, Lanxess and Flossbach von Storch.
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