Today, English PEN announced that Ruth Borthwick and Aki Schilz will take over from Maureen Freely (outgoing Chair) and Claire Armitstead (outgoing Vice Chair) as Chair and Vice Chair of the English PEN Board of Trustees.
With 20 years’ experience of advocating for literature in the UK and internationally, Ruth Borthwick is the Co-founder of Spread the Word and most recently CEO and Artistic Director of Arvon, the UK’s leading creative writing charity. Borthwick has served on the Board of English PEN since 2019. Aki Schilz, Director of The Literary Consultancy, will join Borthwick as Vice Chair.
Ruth Borthwick, incoming Chair of English PEN, said:
‘I am honoured to be the new Chair of English PEN, one of the world’s longest standing human rights organisations. I would like to thank Maureen Freely and Claire Armitstead as outgoing Chair and Vice Chair respectively for their extraordinary commitment to the charity over their terms of office. My intention is to build on their achievements and, as our magnificent centenary year comes to a close, to make sure English PEN powers into the next century because our intervention is needed more than ever. Across the globe, writers and their families face persecution as a result of their work, and PEN’s campaigns to protect freedom of expression is critical to writers’ ability to imagine new worlds that give us all hope.’
Maureen Freely, outgoing Chair of English PEN, said:
‘I am delighted to hand over the role of Chair of English PEN to Ruth Borthwick, who will be joined by Aki Schilz as Vice Chair. Ruth is an exceptional leader in the literary and creative fields today. Her expertise and vision will be vital as we turn the page on English PEN’s first centenary and begin the next. English PEN is also immensely privileged to have Aki Schilz’s guidance at such an important point in the organisation’s history: to continue and develop the work of free expression and equity of opportunity for all readers and writers.’
Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:
‘We’re thrilled to welcome Ruth Borthwick as Chair and Aki Schilz as Vice Chair of English PEN. They join us today to continue to develop the ideas set out by the PEN Charter, and to further our mission to promote equity of expression in all our campaigning. We are immensely grateful to Maureen Freely for the incredible work she has put in over the years, first as President, then Chair of the Board. Maureen has helped us shape the focus and global reach of English PEN, particularly in campaigning for writers at risk across the world and promoting contemporary international writing. We are also indebted to Claire Armitstead for her insight and expertise in literature and journalism, which helped guide us into our centenary year.’
About Ruth Borthwick
Ruth was formerly Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Arvon, the UK’s leading creative writing charity. Over her decade in charge, she led a major renovation of The Hurst, Arvon’s Grade II-listed property in Shropshire. It is the largest arts facility in Britain heated by renewables. The establishment of the Clockhouse Writers Retreat in the grounds offers writers the time and space to write in a comfortable and serviced environment. From 2000–2007, Ruth directed the Literature and Talks programme at London’s Southbank Centre, UK’s only year-round festival of literary events. Whilst there she founded Imagine, the children’s literature festival, and revived Poetry International, the biennial festival initiated by Ted Hughes. Previously, she, together with Bernardine Evaristo, devised and organised Spread the Word, London’s literature development agency, which focused on supporting marginalised writers to develop their craft. Ruth has worked in publishing, researching and bookselling in England and in Australia, where she worked in the first bookshop in Sydney to sell gay books. In June 2018 she was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
About Aki Schilz
Aki Schilz is the Director of The Literary Consultancy, the UK’s longest-running editorial consultancy for writers, providing editing services, mentoring and literary events. In 2020 she launched the Being A Writer platform, which focuses on the importance of cultivating creativity and building resilience. Aki is a judge for various literary awards including the Bridport Prize First Novel Award and appears regularly at conferences and events to talk about the value of editing, about publishing, and the importance of building inclusive cultures in the creative industries. She regularly campaigns for systemic change, including as founder of the #BookJobTransparency campaign for which she was shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Women in Publishing Award. In 2020, Aki was named as one of the Bookseller 150, a list of the most influential people in UK publishing. She is also the founder of the Rebecca Swift Foundation, a registered charity that celebrates and advocates for women poets in the UK and is home to the Women Poets’ Prize and the Women Poets’ Network.