What we do


English PEN is one of the world's oldest human rights organisations, championing the freedom to write and the freedom to read around the world. We are the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries.

With the support of our members – a community of writers, readers and activists – we protect freedom of expression whenever it is under attack. We campaign for writers facing persecution around the world and offer respite residencies for 3-5 writers per year.

We celebrate contemporary international writing through our online magazine, PEN Transmissions, and we award literary grants for translating new works into English.

We bring together outstanding writers, readers and translators for unforgettable conversations and we celebrate courageous writing with three annual literary prizes – the PEN Pinter Prize, the PEN Ackerley Prize and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize.

The PEN Charter

The PEN Charter has guided, unified and inspired its members for over 70 years. Like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the PEN Charter was forged amidst the harsh realities of World War Two. It was approved at the 1948 PEN Congress in Copenhagen.

The history of English PEN

As the founding centre of PEN International, English PEN was one of the world’s first international bodies advocating for human rights.

We were the first worldwide association of writers, and the first organisation to point out that freedom of expression and literature are inseparable – a principle we continue to champion today.

"PEN isn't a luxury. It's a necessity."

Margaret Atwood

Our Board

English PEN is governed by a board of trustees which is elected from and by members, and chaired by Ruth Borthwick. The President of English PEN is Philippe Sands.

Our staff

The English PEN team is led by Director Daniel Gorman.

"PEN has proved itself, time and time again, an effective advocacy organisation."

Salman Rushdie, PEN Pinter Prize Winner 2014

Become a member

Join our community of writers, readers and activists helping to celebrate and protect freedom of expression.

Find out how to join today.

Our impact

From supporting writers at risk and defending free expression, to celebrating international literature and great writers, read about our activities and impact in 2020/21.