An early success, a Burma campaign, and talking to prisoners about poetry.

Welcome back to a new academic year and the first term of York PEN as a fully ratified society. A few things have been happening over the summer in terms of putting plans in place for this term, and this is a quick catch up for everyone. On 10th July English PEN held a student summit (of which you can read the write up here), which Seb, Carys, Ellie, Savannah and Emily attended. It was an exciting and informative day and enabled us to meet members from the other student groups around the country. In between singing rounds, poetry readings and writing our own impromptu poems we were helped to plan the structure of York PEN and think about potential events – we also won a book! So many thanks go to the team at English PEN for a fantastic and useful day.

Some of you may have heard about and signed the petition Seb started to allow charity societies to fundraise. At the YUSU society meeting we were informed that YUSU and RAG have already scrapped the policy which meant only RAG could fundraise. While it would have been nice to know about this before now, it is really great news and means we are free to hold fundraising events. The events and donations still have to be approved by RAG for anti-fraud purposes, but that is to be expected and we can focus on this as a positive start to the term already.

In terms of a campaign to start off the term, the group who attended the English PEN summit decided to focus on Burma. Future campaigns will of course be open to suggestions from the entire society, however we wanted to get the ball rolling and have a focus ready for Freshers’ Week. We chose to campaign on behalf of Aung Than who was sentenced to 19 years in Myanmar’s infamous Insein prison along with Zeya Aung for their book of poems called Dawn Mann (The Fighting Spirit of the Peacock). Ellie has emailed English PEN to see if we can get access to some of his poetry and are waiting response on this. If anyone has any ideas regarding this campaign they would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly and possibly most excitingly, York PEN has been approached by Imam Roderic Vassie from HMYOI Deerbolt, which holds 18-21 year olds serving four year sentence or less. He has asked if we would be interested in running a creative writing and poetry workshop with a particular emphasis on Islam, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity and shows that word of York PEN has already gotten out and people are interested in what we have to offer outside of the university. This is all in the early stages of organisation but it would be great to know if anyone is interested in participating in this. We are able to design the workshop as we wish so it would be a collaborative effort from all those wanting to be involved. Additionally, Seb has been in contact with Erwin James for some advice on how to engage the young offenders, and he was glad to hear about the project and thinks that the reception would be very positive.

So there is a lot to be excited about for York PEN’s first official term. We will let you all know when the first meeting is and the arrangements of the Freshers’ Fair on Saturday 13th October (Week 1). And we look forward to seeing you all again after what we hope has been a fun and relaxing summer!


Do you like literature, human rights and/or freedom of speech? Would you like to get involved with York PEN? Join our facebook group here and say hi (or even something a little more imaginative).


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