The English PEN Modern Literature Festival 2017

April Saturday 1st 2017 in Venue One, Rich Mix: London
2pm / 4pm / 7.30pm - Entrance Free but membership appreciated. 

The English PEN Modern Literature Festival sees 30 contemporary UK-based writers present new works in tribute to writers at risk around the world at Rich Mix, London, on April 1st 2017. #penfestuk Visit www.englishpen.org.

Writers poets, novelists, playwrights and artists come together to continue English PEN's relationship with innovative contemporary literature over an extraordinary day where each of the writers presented brand new poetry, text, reportage & performance on a day that celebrated and evidenced the struggle of fellow writers around the world, in solidarity. 

Please join English PEN

You can join English PEN here http://www.englishpen.org/membership/join/ and if you are a writer, poet, artist, scholar, academic, reader or someone who is passionate about defending our fundamental freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, please take the time to do so and become a part of the future of this extraordinary organisation.

Reading Order:

2pm to 3.30pm

Luke Kennard - Raif Badawi
Nisha Ramayya – Aseem Trivedi
Susie Campbell – Tsering Woeser
Lavinia Singer - Zhu Yufu
SJ Fowler - Waleed Abu Al Khair
Mischa Foster Poole - Alaa Abd El Fattah
Chloe Spicer - Dina Meza
Kate Wakeling - Nurmuhemmet Yasin
Denise Riley - Necmiye Alpay

4pm to 5.30pm

Hannah Silva - Narges Mohammadi
Rebecca Tamas - Ashraf Fayadh
matt martin - Amanuel Asrat
John Hall - Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace
Carol Watts - Aslı Erdoğan
Tom Jenks - Nabeel Rajab
Peter Philpott - Dawit Isaak
Camilla Nelson – Dareen Tatour
Rod Mengham - Mahvash Sabet
Zoë Skoulding - Sanjuana Martinez Montemayor

7.30pm to 9.30pm

Sasha Dugdale - Ahmet and Mehmet Altan
Simon Pomery - Nguyen Van Dai
Sandeep Parmar - Lydia Cacho
Nathan Jones - Zunar
Jeremy Noel-Tod - Nelson Aguilera
Chrissy Williams - The Al-Khawaja family
Tony White - Ahmed Naji
Larry Lynch – Oleg Sentsov
Matthew Welton - Tutul
Elizabeth-Jane Burnett - Liu Xia
Vahni Capildeo - The Douma 4

RaifBadawi.jpg

The first English PEN Modern Literature Festival - April 2nd 2016

The first ever English PEN Modern Literature Festival saw 30 contemporary UK-based writers present new works in tribute to writers at risk around the world at Rich Mix, London, on April 2nd 2016. #penfestuk Visit www.englishpen.org.

Writers poets, novelists, playwrights and artists came together to continue English Pen's relationship with innovative contemporary literature over an extraordinary day where each of the writers presented brand new poetry, text, reportage & performance on a day that celebrated and evidenced the struggle of fellow writers around the world, in solidarity. A full list of performances available below

Introduction by Jo Glanville https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0conMcRrKw
Harry Man on Maung Saung Kha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKBFA9TMpkI
David Berridge on Dawit Isaak https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzolTKbjlRw
Kirsten Irving on Nurmuhemmet Yasin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZlOgwlx7cs
Jen Calleja on Gao Yu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKo0ylG4gXs
SJ Fowler on Khadija Ismayilova https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lROYXjvM0gI
Dave Spittle on Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz5rN5T4AKM
Prudence Chamberlain on Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkhong https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERU4P2g8R_4
Robert Hampson on Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yATmgGgL4x4
Adam Baron on Can Dündar and Erdem Gül https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQHy2F75twM
Andrew McMillan on Ashraf Fayadh https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa7wCYfi1WI
Eley Williams on Tsering Woeser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zZidUyQrPw
Sam Winston (with Jamie Perera) on Zunar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXVSkx6J59c
Lucy Harvest Clarke on Liu Xia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6nEfNZ-hOk
Stephen Emmerson on Dina Meza https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQa3fc7BiCA
Alex MacDonald on Alaa Abd El Fattah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsolYlKIoU8
Drew Milne on Omar Hazek https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn-v7FT4IxE
Caleb Klaces on Jorge Olivera Castillo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsEIfd9t-qg
Tim Atkins on Liu Xiaobo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLYJctN7WU0
Caroline Bergvall on Sanjuana Martínez https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVuIwj1pulM
Emily Critchley on Mahvash Sabet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn3FlMW11kY
Sarah Kelly on Nelson Aguilera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A8OIGlKBaY
Allen Fisher on Mamadali Makhmudov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4mLkkGAB6A
Nathan Walker on Mohammed al-‘Ajami https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fapKsXQWy9c
Michael Zand on U Zeya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_PRnfOx_1w
Mark Waldron on Zhu Yufu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezl3j2M-UP0
Mark Ravenhill on Mazen Darwish and Yara Bader https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtjLl55OJ6M
Emily Berry on Raif Badawi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjvz0dWw_2Q

The festival was intended as a call to membership for writers, artists and readers in a time where we face perilous challenges to our freedom of expression and fundamental rights and hard fought liberties, both internationally and here in the UK. As the world changes so remarkably, and so rapidly, and on a global scale, it is vital the political will of our time and this generation of young, dynamic writers is directed purposefully to the work of English PEN, the writer's charity. The hope is this festival, away from creating at least 30 new members of PEN, begins involvements and connections which will have exponential resonance for decades to come.

Please join English PEN

You can join English PEN here http://www.englishpen.org/membership/join/ and if you are a writer, poet, artist, scholar, academic, reader or someone who is passionate about defending our fundamental freedom of expression in the UK and around the world, please take the time to do so and become a part of the future of this extraordinary organisation.


A blog by SJ Fowler on curating The English PEN Modern Literature Festival: February 27th 2016

The English PEN Modern Literature Festival will take place over one day at Rich Mix Arts Centre, near Brick Lane, on April 2nd 2016. It will involve 30 English writers, primarily poets writing in the literary or modernist traditions, who will present new works each relating to a writer at risk from around the globe, whom English PEN is currently supporting. It will be a celebration of these writers, in new pieces of literature, a day to take stock of what we have, of what they’ve done, and the achievements of English PEN as an organisation.

My primary curatorial duty in this project has been to connect the 30 writers from England each to a writer at risk. For many months this process has been discussed with the brilliant people at PEN, and when I received the files on the writers at risk we were going to celebrate, I was just about to board a long flight and so had the chance to read them in one go, over about nine hours, in the strange environs of a plane. It’s hard to describe the feeling afterwards, certainly the sense of responsibility, that I had sought out this project, enthusiastic from the off, but perhaps not truly prepared for the reality of the writers we would be writing about. It’s mawkish to speak of admiration, but come face to face with such will, such commitment to principle, and for it to be so global, to be almost everywhere on our planet, through these 30 human beings who share with us a profession, it left me feeling as ashamed as I was inspired. Perhaps one can never really divorce oneself from the selfish question of whether I would continue to speak up in such circumstance, facing prison, torture, perhaps death. To risk my life and the lives of those I love. The festival will not be a maudlin affair, and no one is suggesting it will create powerful change, but it is important, to me and the other 59 writers connected, if nothing else.

I’m fortunate to have the infrastructure to organise an event like this, with The Enemies Project, having run quite large events which require new work or collaborations from the participating poets almost every time, and this feels, without a doubt, the best use for that infrastructure. I enjoy curating live literature, I think especially in the modernist or avant garde traditions, it’s maybe necessary, to share complex and challenging work with people, consistently, in a welcoming and generous context, and as a poet and artist, to take control of that space where the work is shared. I think it’s an act of community, though I don’t think it more than it is, it is antagonistic to the smallness that can come with writerly solitude or factionalism. The English PEN Modern Literature Festival feels like the most purposeful event I’ve ever put together, for it’s effects, already happening, will not just be to connect underappreciated writers from the UK to oppressed and unbelievably courageous writers in different places, to bring light to those writers, to celebrate them, in London, a global city, where we must always be mindful of the freedoms and luxuries we enjoy. But also because I hope it encourage others, writers and readers alike, of my generation, to join English PEN and to begin investments and connections that might have significant effects on the future of this extraordinary charity, the writers charity, as they battle to maintain our freedom of speech, as they do the job we need doing, long into the future www.stevenjfowler.com/englishpen


A blog by SJ Fowler after the Festival - April 13th 2016

One of my proudest days as a curator. Not because I had achieved anything myself, but because, at the end of 25 performances, six hours of poetry & performance and a fair few hundred people coming and going, it was clear the simple act of organising something between people, a simple act of emails, could create a feeling of purpose exponentially larger than the sum of its parts. 

A huge gratefulness stays with me, for the wonderful, generous staff of English PEN, and for the many poets in the room at Rich Mix throughout April 2nd, and around the world, whom were being celebrated in absentia, for their courage and relentless strength of character and purpose.

The sense of responsibility each of the poets and writers felt to their respective charges, the writers at risk currently supported by English PEN whom they had been asked to write about, threatened to overwhelm each and every work. But it never did tip, never spilled into sentimentality or fragility. I truly believe that difficult, complex, intellectual artworks, poetry, maintains a necessary intensity of focus and agility of method to be created and understood, and this kind of work is then best suited to celebrate / evoke the same tragedy of injustice and overloading of guilt and pain we feel at the suffering of others. Fellow writers specifically here, but in general, beyond that. It is best suited to satirise, to send love, to call out - it is something ambiguous and terrifying we were all writing about, and none of us tried to escape our own place in that. We needed to be innovative to not simply condense these feelings into didactic speeches or calls to ethics we all knew we shared anyway. In that sense, for me, it was a comforting day. For others, perhaps challenging. But for me, it was comforting, for I was surrounded by great intelligence, great humility, a collective assuredness of purpose, without pretence and without self-deception. The ethics of such a day, of writing poetry at all, boils down to something (something wrong, something clumsy, something ineffectual?), or nothing, nothing against something, mute from fear of being ineffectual. This was a day of something real.

I'm so glad I could be at the centre of such a day, and I have great hope it'll happen again. Please visit www.englishpen.org/membership to join the amazing charity.