We are thrilled to announce that we will be returning to the London Book Fair this year to host our annual English PEN Literary Salon (12–14 March 2024).
Join us for an exciting programme of conversations on freedom of expression and literature in the UK and beyond, with themes including taking risks as a writer; cultural resilience in Ukraine; being a ‘Northern writer’; Israel, Palestine and freedom of expression in the UK; writer-to-writer solidarity; activism in Iran; Uyghur poetry, and much more.
Tuesday 12 March 2024
Daniel Gorman, Ruth Borthwick, Romana Cacchioli
English PEN is one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, championing the freedom to write and read. We are the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 130 centres in more than 90 countries. With the support of our members, we protect freedom of expression whenever it is under attack, support writers facing persecution around the world, and celebrate contemporary international writing.
Join representatives from English PEN and PEN International to find out more about how we work with writers, translators and publishers around the world and ask us your questions about the state of free expression today.
This event is in partnership with PEN International.
Guy Gunaratne, Nick Barley, Aki Schilz
Literature creates space for and encourages the expression of a broad range of often conflicting or contradictory ideas. But how do publishers, festivals and other literary bodies create space for disagreement and dissent within their own organisations and with their readers? This panel will explore the need for free expression for authors, readers, and publishing staff, and the importance of platforming different viewpoints and the challenges of empowering different stakeholders to speak out.
Neda Tehrani, Johanna Thomas-Corr, Preti Taneja, Arifa Akbar
Writers should feel able to take risks in their writing – whether formally, stylistically, or through the ideas and arguments they put forward – and confident that their publisher will support them in their conviction. But what is at stake when writers take risks that prove divisive? How does a writer or publisher distinguish between self-censorship and conscientiousness? And how can publishers support their writers to take risks?
Jen Calleja, SJ Kim, Meena Kandasamy, Sana Goyal
Featuring three contributors from Wasafiri magazine’s ‘The State of the Industry’ spring special issue, the first issue in its 40th anniversary year, this panel brings together writers and translators to discuss writing and labour, and to debunk myths. Exploring and exposing pertinent issues within the precarious worlds of academia and the publishing industry, they ask: How are creativity and capitalism tangled? What is expected of marginalised voices? And how does the industry ‘read’ writers and translators?
This event is in partnership with Wasafiri magazine.
Neve Gordon, Yasmin El-Rifae, Avi Shlaim, Selma Dabbagh
Discussing the impact of the Israeli-occupation of Palestine – and especially the most violent aspects of both opposition to it and its enforcement – has long been difficult in the UK. Freedom of expression here has become even more restricted on this topic after the atrocities of the Hamas-led attacks of 7 October 2023 and of the continuing Israeli bombardment and devastation of Gaza. This panel will discuss how freedom of expression in the UK has been affected in the context of responding to the evolving situation in Israel and Palestine. Read PEN International’s statement on attacks on journalists and media infrastructures and call for a ceasefire.
Iryna Starovoyt, Zoe Sadler
Acclaimed poet, essayist, and academic Iryna Starovoyt will discuss the importance of cultural resilience in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine.
Wednesday 13 March 2024
Suhrab Sirat, Oleksandr Mykhed, Ma Thida
This panel will discuss the role of PEN centres during times of conflict and why war makes our work more urgent. From the targeting of journalists, the destruction of libraries and other spaces providing access to literature and information, to the ways in which language and reporting are manipulated to present an inaccurate or dangerous narrative of war and those impacted by it.
This event is in partnership with PEN International.
Batool Haidari, Louisa Joyner, Georgina Godwin
Some writers are forced to work in extreme and unjust circumstances: they write whilst on trial; whilst being hounded by their state; or from within prison. Often, the act of writing puts them at even greater risk. What are the challenges to publishers sharing their work, why is it important they continue to do so, and how can publishers advocate for their authors at risk and continue to work with them through these circumstances?
This event is in partnership with Untold Narratives.
lisa minerva luxx, Emma Shercliff, Ellah Wakatama, Daniel Gorman
Publishing does not operate in a vacuum – it is affected by global politics and events. How should publishers, agents, authors and readers engage with literature and authors in countries with a poor human rights record, or at the centre of an active humanitarian crisis? What is the role of literature during times of geopolitical or humanitarian struggle, and how much should it sit outside of political decision-making and international relations?
Dina Nayeri, Awet Fissehaye, Vidisha Biswas, Naima Khan
Anti-immigration rhetoric is pervasive across all sectors of British society. This panel will discuss this ‘hostile environment’ and how its policies impact writers and creatives from refugee and migrant backgrounds, how publishers can best support their writers and staff, and how the books they commission and publish can better represent and platform the diversity of stories and voices.
This event is in partnership with Counterpoint Arts.
Poupeh Missaghi, Malu Halasa, Christina Lamb
In In the Streets of Tehran, an anonymous woman describes her daily activism in the streets of the Iranian capital and shows it to be part of a long and powerful tradition of female resistance. In Woman. Life. Freedom, Malu Halasa explores the rise of creative resistance that followed Jina Mahsa Amini’s death at the hands of Iran’s Morality Police. In this panel, translator and author will discuss the lack of freedom of expression in Iran and how this shapes the form of protest, the importance of documenting every day activism, and the great risks of doing so.
Ege Dündar, Yara Rodrigues Fowler, Zoe Sadler
This panel will discuss the importance of global solidarity between writers and the role that writers (and others in the literary space) play in advocacy, solidarity, and in galvanising support for writers suffering from targeted persecution or nationwide crisis, as well as the importance of literature during times of war or crisis.
Thursday 14 March 2024
Sunny Singh, Irenosen Okojie
This panel will focus on positive interventions that have been made in the publishing and wider literature sector to address the lack of representation, support and accessibility for writers of colour. The conversation will explore the state of the sector, the reasons the speakers launched their respective projects, and how they’ve benefitted both writers and readers.
Elizabeth Briggs, Isabella Hammad, Hannah Khalil, Rafeef Ziadah
In the face of unimaginable violence, literature can often feel superfluous or even distracting from the material issues at hand. This conversation between Palestinian writers will consider the value of continuing to produce, share and champion Palestinian culture and literature in the face of military bombardment, and what role literature and its creators play at a moment like this. This event is in partnership with PEN International.
Richard Kelly, Eliza Clark, Rebecca Wilkie
What does it mean to be a ‘Northern’ writer? It is inspiring or reductive to be labelled as such? And does the cultural perception Northerners and their lives limit the scope of what they can write and get published? This panel conversation will explore the positives and negatives to being classed as a ‘Northern writer’, and how, in a bid to champion regional diversity in literature, identity risks being co-opted as a marketing tool that dictates what stories get told.
This event is in partnership with New Writing North.
Mónica Ojeda, Leon Craig, Alison Rumfitt, Zoe Sadler
The panel will look at how writers are experimenting with the horror genre as a means of examining complex, murky, or ‘transgressive’ subjects – such as sexuality and state and interpersonal violence – as well as a space for marginalised identities and experiences to be explored. It will consider the creative and expressive freedom this genre offers and why it is being reinvented for the purpose of telling marginalised stories.
Aziz Isa Elkun, Ross Holder
This conversation with Uyghur poet and academic Aziz Isa Elkun will explore the rich and historic tradition of Uyghur poetry as well as the violence being brought against Uyghurs by the Chinese government. It will also consider why cultural and linguistic erasure is so often used as a tool of state violence and oppression, and why it is therefore important that Uyghur literature continues to be translated, published and promoted.