Right to Dissent

There wasn’t a ticket to be had – even for ready money –  at the New Players Theatre on 23 May 2005 where the Writers in Prison Committee staged The Right to Dissent, an inspiring evening of music, conversation and readings.

As Ania Corless, vice-chair of the WiPC said in her introduction, the purpose of the evening was twofold: to raise awareness, and to raise money. Most people who were there were agreed that it succeeded – magnificently – in both.

There were the usual last-minute hitches: both Harold Pinter and Craig Murray were unable to appear due to illness. At the twelfth hour, Fay Weldon and Clare Short agreed to stand in and were interviewed by Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. And forty-eight hours before the curtain went up Max Stafford Clark and two actors from the Royal Court theatre agreed to perform an extract from a new play there, Talking to Terrorists which tells the story of Craig Murray in role as the sacked ambassador to Uzbekistan.

The Russian journalist and poet Grigory Pasko had flown in especially to appear and read his work in Russian which was then read, with haunting beauty, by the actress Gina McKeeJulia Latynina, one of Russia’s most prominent investigative journalists and writers, had also flown in and spoke powerfully about censorship and dissent in Russia. Andrew Jack gave a balanced and fluent overview of the suppression of free expression in Russia and in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

There was music too from the Helen Chadwick Group who sang Russian poems translated into English and from the leading young cellist, Alice Neary, who played Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to the Departed, the Kontakion.

But for many people, the highlight of the evening was Tony Benn’s inspiring talk on the Right to Dissent, a phrase he himself coined.


Carole Seymour-Jones, chair of the WiPC elegantly and movingly summed up the diverse strands of the event and brought the evening to a close.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/righttodissent/

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