Barcelona was among the cities present at the ICORN Founding Meeting in 2006. It had already been one of the oldest members of the previous City of Asylum Network, until this network was dissolved in 2005. The creation of a new network was then more than welcome by the city in order to continue offering a safe haven to persecuted writers, providing them with a safe place and a cultural environment to stimulate their creative and literary activity. Raffaella Salierno, Director of the Guest Writer Programme of Catalan PEN, was elected a member of the Advisory Board in that first ICORN Meeting in Stavanger, representing Barcelona City of Refuge. She then served as member of the ICORN Board until 2013.
The first guest writer hosted in Barcelona after the creation of ICORN was the Tamazight author Salem Zenia (Algeria, 2007-2009), followed by Sihem Bensedrine (Tunisia, 2010-2011) and Basem Al-Nabriss (Palestina, 2012-2014).
In November 2007, the City of Barcelona and Catalan PEN hosted the International Cities of Refuge Network Meeting, Writing without Fear: Freedom of Expression who saw the official launch of the ICORN EU Culture 2007 project Shahrazad – a five years’ cooperation project between the ICORN member cities of Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt, Norwich, Stockholm and Stavanger. The keynote speech at that meeting, The Image and the Word, was held by Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer.
The city of Barcelona is known for its commitment towards all the arts fields. As for literature, the city has a wide range of literary events all year long. Among the most important ones are the St. George’s Day on the 23rd of April, also known as the Day of the book and the rose, which is a most popular celebration with all the city’s main streets full of people looking for books from the bookshop stalls and cuing to get their preferred writer’s signature; the Kosmopolis Festival every two years; the Poetry Week in May; the Week of the Catalan Book in September and the Crime Fiction Week in January.