Conscious Clubbing with DJ Bobby Friction

For the first time ever; a PEN Writers in Prison collaboration with DJ Bobby Friction and Cargo Nightclub, for an evening of conscious clubbing.


Carol Ann Duffy and DJ Bobby Friction
Carol Seymour-Jones, WiPC Chair, with DJ Bobby Friction

DJ Bobby Friction chaired the event, appropriately named ‘Frictions’ – for as he said himself: We aren’t going to bring in a bunch of people together who already agree with each other.


A panel of five distinguished thinkers, writers and a rapper spent the early evening discussing whether there are any limits to freedom of expression. Representing PEN was novelist, journalist and TV arts presenter Candida Clark; novelist and journalist Hari Kunzru who, among other things, has been named one of Granta’s Best Young Novelists (2003); and Palestinian activist, doctor and author Ghada Karmi.


Also in the panel was Aki Nawaz, known as Aki-Stani, Righteous Preacher, Propa-Ghandi and even as the “Pakistani ‘Public Enemy'”. Some may know him as the most visible figure in the rap group Fun^Da^Mental. And; Parv Bancil the acclaimed and bold dramatist, whose plays inlcude Ungrateful Dead and Made in England.


The panel started by itroducing themselves and then outlined their position:

There aren’t any limits, said Bancil. But we should look at why some people do get offended.

No limits, said Clark. A writer must be free.

No limits that aren’t already covered by law, said Karmi.

No limits, said Kunzru; or we might end up with writers self-censoring themselves.

Hypocrisy, said Aki; Of course there are limits!


Then the debate got heated.

We have moral responsibilities to other people. An intelligent debate needs to happen, and not just the occurrence of tabloid sound bites, Aki asserted.

Karmi agreed that we should have respect for one another, but underlined that a law will not make us more respectful. The way to tackle disrespectfulness is by informing and educating people.


Clark upheld that a writer’s job is to ask the silly and sometimes dangerous questions, and that freedom of expression didn’t necessarily mean consensus. You have a debate, you thrash out your arguments, and then you shake hands with each other and have a drink.

Kunzru said there are three ways of dealing with what you find offensive: through debate, through violence and through law. The two latter can be fatal as they limit and restrain freedom of expression.

From the left: Parv, Candida, Ghada, Hari and Aki

From the left: Parv Bancil, Candida Clark, Ghada

Karmi, Hari Kunzru and Aki Nawaz

My engagement in this started around Christmas
, Bancil said, and referred to when the play Behzti at Birmingham Theatre was closed down due to riots outside the theatre. Six days of peaceful protests were suddenly ignored and the riots were claimed to represent the Sikh community. He also added that the play was treated in a differently way in the media after the riot with some linking it to women’s rights and oppressive communities. A whole ethnic community were vilified, said Bancil.

At the end, members of the audience got an opportunity to question the panel. The questions ranged from how it can be possible to create a law which can shut down differing opinions, to what happens when religion gets involved in politics. One audience member quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying you “either have the freedom to abuse the freedom of speech, or you do not have the freedom of speech at all”. Aki responded with a J. F. Kennedy quote: “If we can’t have peaceful revolutions, violent revolutions will be inevitable”. Clark asserted that freedom is the bottom-line of this debate, quoting John Updike: “An absolute freedom exists on the blank page, so let’s use it”.

Bobby Friction smoothly rounded up the debate, his first favourite D, and let the second and third favourite Ds take over: Drinking and Dancing. Shri showcased his forthcoming album and was joined on stage by long time collaborator DJ Badmarsh. Later on in the evening special guest DJ Killing Time appeared, before Friction & Nihal took to the decks and brought forward the sounds of the Asian urban underground.

Many thanks to all those who took part in this very special evening.

Report by Hadia Tajik



Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *