Newsletter June 2011

From the Director

As the debate rages over super-injunctions, there are angry exchanges between judges, MPs, celebrities, lawyers and journalists. The ‘twittersphere’ is up in arms about the impact of privacy law on free speech, but others welcome the protection of personal privacy that is afforded by Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. What does this mean for authors? Since earliest times, writers have taken inspiration from their own experiences. Novelists, poets and playwrights base characters on people they know, whilst memoirs and biographies are all about real people. Could a tough new privacy law prevent such work being published or performed? Should authors welcome privacy laws or oppose them? Can we strike a balance between free speech and privacy – and is there really such a difference between kiss and tell tabloid journalism and literary memoir?

I am delighted to announce that Geoffrey Robertson QC will head a panel of lawyers and authors to debate the impact of privacy on literature, in the first English PEN Free Speech Café – a new series of informal events tackling the most topical controversies in free speech. When we ask PEN members what they want to get out of their PEN membership, a common request is for more opportunity to discuss and debate current issues, and the Free Speech Café is our response to this request. This event is open to members only, but anyone interested in joining the debate can come along and join English PEN on the night for just £4 per month, so why not bring a friend?

This month’s bulletin is once again full of news from across our programmes. None of our activities would be possible without our members’ contributions – both financial, and in the time dedicated to our campaigns and events. Thank you all so much for your support.

Jonathan Heawood

A Message from English PEN Treasurer Barry Kernon

I have always believed in the importance of free speech, so when I was approached in 2001 by Victoria Glendinning and Frances Spalding, at the suggestion of Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, and asked to become Hon. Treasurer of English PEN, it seemed to be an opportunity to put some effort into helping to run a worthwhile organisation. I agreed to become Hon. Treasurer and have been here ever since. During this period a members’ association has become a limited company and a registered charity. It has grown in size, although not particularly financially, and its influence has increased considerably.

It was pointed out to me at the outset that, as I had been advising writers on tax matters for about 30 years, it was about time I put something back. I have been much impressed by the work done by Jonathan Heawood and his team and will do my best to help the organisation continue to go from strength to strength.

Barry Kernon

Writers in Public

We’ve got an incredible line-up for our event celebrating Rosamond Lehmann on 7 June. Join Jonathan Coe (What a Carve Up!, The Rotters’ Club), Selena Hastings (Lehmann’s biographer), and publisher Carmen Callil (founder of Virago Press) as they discuss Lehmann’s remarkable life and lasting appeal. Chaired by Lennie Goodings.

Tuesday 21 June sees the first of our Free Speech Cafés – a new series of salon style events, for PEN members and their guests only, tackling the most topical controversies in free speech. Prompted by online revelations of information protected by super-injunctions, this Free Speech Café will explore the impact of privacy on literature. The free flow of information afforded by the internet has sparked debate over our privacy laws, but how would authors be affected by changes to our legislation? Geoffrey Robertson QC will lead a panel of lawyers and authors to discuss the issue.

Margaret Storm Jameson was one of the most influential Presidents of English PEN, leading the organization through the defining years 1938-44. On May 11, in an event chaired by Lindsay Mackie, writer and academic Dr Lara Feigel, Dr Jennifer Birkett, Jameson’s biographer and historian Juliet Gardiner examined the legacy of remarkable woman and PEN’s transformation during the war years. A full report will be available shortly on the website.

Also this month, Writing Freedom, the English PEN 90th Anniversary Roadshow, saw its premiere at the Brighton Festival, followed by a performance at How the Light Gets In at Hay. Our thanks to all our guest readers – Bidisha, Deborah Moggach, Jake Arnott, Lemn Sissay, William Fiennes, Amy Jenkins, Jonathan Derbyshire, Zaiba Malik and Anita Sethi, all of whom gave brilliant performances to help bring English PEN’s astonishing history to life.

Photographs from the majority of English PEN events can be seen on English PEN’s rapidly growing Flickr site. The Writers in Public programme also has its own dedicated Facebook page – do sign up as a fan to be kept up to date with all our public events.

Sarah Hesketh
Assistant Director

To find out more about events at the Free Word Centre, visit Free Word’s events page.

Readers & Writers

We’ve been concentrating on our prison programme – our work with Inside Communities – as we continue fundraising for our work with refugee groups – New Communities.

Very soon we will be sending Malorie Blackman and Choman Hardi in to HMP Holloway, Dreda Say Mitchell into HMP Full Sutton, Anthony Horowitz into Young Offenders Institute HMP Littlehey and Louis De Bernières into HMP Wayland. We’re very excited about these visits and we’ll let you know all about them.

We are planning a prison writing competition – a simple but very PEN-like competition which will encourage prisoners to submit a book review or a piece of life writing. The competition, which will be judged by Jake Arnott, will result in a book of the writing by both offenders and prison staff, and this will be launched in a prison at the end of the year. 

In line with our new work around free speech education, we are partnering up with Human Rights Watch on a writing competition for young people, which will encourage participants to explore Freedom of Expression. There will be prizes and the opportunity to be published in a book. Our new Free Speech night classes for adults in London continue in Autumn, so watch this space.

We’ve been visiting detention centres and speaking to libraries and education departments there to find out if we can extend our programme – even occasionally – to the community of detainees who have little or no provision of books in their own language or in English.

English PEN’s Readers & Writers programme has been invited to programme an event as part of the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival, Revealing Hidden Voices, with Choman Hardi, Nii Parkes and the choir Woven Gold. The event, which will take place on Friday 8 July at 1pm, is free and we hope as many PEN members as possible will turn up.

As ever, a full carrier bag of possibilities at English PEN’s education programme! Thank you for supporting us- please get in touch with Philip or Irene if you want to be involved.

Philip Cowell

Participation Manager

Irene Garrow

Prisons Officer

Writers in Prison

Cases of Concern

We were absolutely delighted to learn that our Honorary Member Azerbaijani editor Eynulla Fatullayev was pardoned and released from prison on 26 May 2011. Eynulla, who had been imprisoned for almost four years, was released following a presidential amnesty, just days ahead of Azerbaijan’s Independence Day on 28 May.  Speaking to the press about his release, he thanked the international community for their support, saying, “It’s a miracle for me. I couldn’t imagine it. It’s a real surprise”. For more information, please click here.

The sentencing of writers and journalists detained in Belarus almost six months ago, on 19 December 2010, has now taken place. Journalist Dimitri Bondarenko has been given a two year prison term, while Irina Khalip, Vladimir Neklyaev and Aleksandr Fiaduta have all been given two year suspended sentences for alleged participation in riots. Pavel Severinets, an opposition activist, author and member of Belarus PEN, was sentenced to three years “restricted freedom”. Whilst we welcome the releases on suspended sentences, we regret that these were not unconditional, and continue to call for all restrictions to be lifted. We also call for the immediate release of Dimitri Bondarenko, who is apparently in very poor health. For more information, please click here.

Blog for Belarus: Our colleagues at Free Belarus Now ( are looking for contributors to their blog – an ideal platform for individuals keen to comment on the current situation in Belarus.  Blog posts, of up to 500 words, can be about anything relating to Belarus. If you are interested in contributing, please email

We welcomed the conviction and sentencing of two people in connection to the 2009 double murder of freelance journalist Anastasiya Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, in a trial which has been described by the Centre to Protect Journalists as ‘a landmark victory in the fight against impunity in press killings in Russia’. For more information, please click here.


Recent Events
On 9 May, we held a sold-out screening of I Have No Enemies, a poignant documentary on Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo. The screening was followed by a fascinating discussion with the film’s director Claudine Parrish, WiPC Chair Salil Tripathi, Chinese author Ma Jian and his translator Flora Drew, and China expert Julia Lovell. The meeting was chaired by Isabel Hilton. To read a report on the event by Alexandra Masters, please click here.

Get Involved
Writing to prisoners: If you are interested in writing to one of our current cases of concern on a regular basis, or in joining our Books to Prisoners programme, please contact

Facebook: Those of you on Facebook can keep up to date with current cases of concern and WiPC activities by clicking ‘like’ on the English PEN Writers in Prison page. And please recommend it to all your friends!

Rapid Action Network: If you would like to join the Rapid Action Network, please email

Cat Lucas
Campaigns Officer

UK Campaigns

The Libel Reform Campaign continues. We have submitted oral and written evidence to the joint scrutiny committee in parliament, which is chaired by Lord Brian Mawhinney. PEN and the Libel Reform Campaign have recommended a tightening of the proposed new defences of public interest and honest opinion, to better distinguish between responsible journalism and scurrilous rumour. We have also recommended that corporations be prevented from suing in libel, because damage to a company ‘brand’ cannot carry the same psychological hurt as the wrongful damage to a personal reputation. However, companies should still be able to sue for malicious falsehood, and win a ‘declaration of falsity’ when a journalist makes a mistake. We have recommended that Internet Service Providers and book shops be exempt from liability in libel, because they have no editorial control over the content of books or web pages. They should only be required to remove content when order to do so by a court. This should put a stop to the practice of lawyers issuing threats to ISPs and bookshops as the ‘weakest link’ in the chain of liability, to the detriment of free expression.

We have also made a strong recommendation that the court procedures for libel should be improved. The first meeting of our distinguished advisory panel for our Alternative Libel Project took place last week. Chaired by Sir Stephen Sedley, the group examined possible alternative procedures for libel cases, and made recommendations for further research. This project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and will culminate in the publication of a major report later this year. If you would like to learn more, please contact Helen Anthony, our Lead Researcher, on

UK Visas
English PEN were invited to take part in the Home Office consultation on the introduction of a new visa route for artists. The new ‘Exceptional Talent’ stream is for long term work permits (Tier 1 under the new points based system). Arts Council England will work with the UK Border Agency to endorse artists of exceptional talent, as well as emerging artists who will contribute to the cultural life in the UK. The English PEN team, led by novelist and trustee Kamila Shamsie, pushed to widen the criteria for entry, to ensure that the route is a viable and attractive option for creative writers. The scheme will be introduced shortly.

Robert Sharp

Campaigns Manager

Helen Anthony

Lead Researcher

Writers in Translation

This month Writers in Translation hosted the launch of Roberto Saviano’s new book Beauty and the Inferno – a collection of twenty-five powerful essays by the courageous author of Gormorrah. Unfortunately, Saviano was unable to attend the launch of his book in the UK after the government and Metropolitan Police refused to guarantee his safety. Fellow investigative journalist and friend of Saviano, Misha Glenny, and Saviano’s UK publisher, Christopher MacLehose, gave inspiring speeches of support and solidarity in the author’s absence. Both speeches can be viewed here with English and Italian subtitles.

We’re also getting ready for this year’s International Translation Day on Friday 30 September 2011. International Translation Day provides a space for those interested in the business of literary translation to network, share ideas and take these important debates forward. We will be launching the final Global Translation Initiative report, which will feature a collection of topical Think Pieces exploring obstacles and barriers to literary translation as well as opportunities within – and beyond – the literary translation community.

If you haven’t yet seen the Global Translation Initiative interim report, Flying Off The Shelves, you can download it here. This is a summary of International Translation Day 2010 and a good reminder of some of the key discussions and debates.

We’re looking forward to the publication of In the Sea There Are Crocodiles in June.
Author Fabio Geda and Enaiatollah Akbari will be visiting the UK in August 2011. We’re very happy that they will both feature in this year’s Edinburgh International Book Fair events programme, along with other Writers in Translation authors; Tahar Ben Jelloun (A Palace in the Old Village), Chan KoonChung (The Fat Years) and Javier Cercas (The Anatomy of a Moment), amongst others.

Finally, make sure you don’t miss our event at this year’s World Literature Weekend:

Javier Cercas: The Anatomy of a Moment
Saturday 18 June, 4pm
Stevenson Room, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

The Anatomy of a Moment is a patient dissection of a key episode in recent European history – the attempted coup in Spain in 1981. In his meticulous analysis of the moment when gunmen stormed the Spanish parliament, Javier Cercas has created an intriguing book which occupies a fascinating space between fiction and reality. Paul Preston, Professor of Spanish History at LSE, joins Cercas to discuss the challenges of historical writing in a conversation chaired by Lisa Hilton, acclaimed author of Queen’s Consort.

To book tickets and for more information please visit the LRB World Literature Weekend website here.

Emma Cleave
Writers in Translation Programme Manager

Members’ News

Former PEN President Lisa Appignanesi will be appearing at the following events this summer:

All About Love, Saturday 4 June, Hay Festival

5 x 15, Monday 20 June, Tabernacle, Notting Hill

The London Literature Festival, Monday 4 July, Southbank Centre

Messages from Friends of English PEN

Michael Cunningham in conversation with Christopher Potter

Monday 4 July, 7pm

Old Anatomy Theatre, King’s College London

With The Hours, published in 2000 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Michael Cunningham established himself as one of the great American novelists at work today. In By Nightfall, published in January, he lifts the lid on a New York couple who appear both comfortable and successful, but who are, in fact, ravaged by uncertainty and terror of mortality. Cunningham talks to Christopher Potter about his work.

For more information, visit or call 020 7845 4676.

Six Slovak Poets – An Arc Anthology Tour
Saturday 18 June, 7pm
Rich Mix Centre, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA

Arc Publications’ Six Slovak Poets includes work by a generation who started publishing in the 1960s, who lived through the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and saw the 1993 division of the country give birth to today’s Slovak Republic. Emilia Haugovà and Ivan Štrpka, two of the collection’s contributors, will read alongside half a dozen London-based poets to celebrate the sixth event in the Maintenant series held at the Rich Mix arts centre in London’s Brick Lane. As ever, the Maintenant series will advocate a diverse selection of poetic methodologies, ages & nationalities – collecting together some of the most interesting poets Europe has to offer. Visit for more information.

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 *