Our PEN Friends

by Pandora Longstreth


Now that we are half way through Autumn Term, the time has come to see what some of our sister societies have been up to this term! York PEN is one of seven active student PEN centres in the UK along with Cambridge University, the University of East LondonKings College Londonthe University of Surrey, and Oxford University.

Cambridge University

Day of the imprisoned writer


On the 16th November at 20:00, Cambridge Student PEN is hosting an “empty chair” open mic night to mark Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Not only will the event will be open to poets and writers at Cambridge to present their own work, members of Cambridge PEN will also be displaying poems, drama extracts and monologues by persecuted writers.

“We will feature some of the bravest and most urgent writing from around the world, including works by Enoh Meyomesse, Payam Feili, Zhu Yufu and others, alongside well-known names like Liu Xiabao and an interview with Pussy Riot. There will also be opportunities to take action for the writers we are focusing on, signing letters of support and petitions on their behalf.”

Oxford University


Letters to Israel and Palestine

This academic year, Oxford PEN has had a lot on its plate. Most notable have been their letters to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. After spending two weeks of their meetings looking at the Palestine campaign, they put together two separate sample letters and have asked for signatures:

The first [letter] protests Israel’s lack of concern for the safety of journalists, and their use of “administrative detention” to indefinitely detain Palestinian academics without charge, while the second [letter] calls on the Palestinian Authority to improve their practices regarding freedom of the press and the arrests of journalists.”

An Evening of Remembrance, Poetry and Music

Oxford Student PEN have also been planning an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. They will be joined by poets and artists Jenny Lewis, John Greening and Adnan Al-Sayegh and double bass player Yaron Stavi for an evening of poetry, music and, of course, remembering.

Wednesday November 5th – 17:15, Danson Room, Trinity College.

University of East London

Open mic night: body rights


Last week, UEL PEN hosted an event in conjunction with the university’s “My Body Not Yours” (MBNY) campaign. The evening consisted of an open mic night, guest speakers performing poems and other extracts, as well as some ‘empty chair’ pieces – reading on behalf of imprisoned writers.

The aim of the event, as well as the MBNY campaign was to “[fight] street harassment and abuse in general… [and to] eradicate bigoted behaviour, especially on campus”.

Following on from the successful event, UEL PEN have posted links on their Facebook page to some of the ‘empty chair’ pieces that were performed, for example, this clip of the “Real Sex Tips” poem.

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