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Free Word’s Clerkenwell base has closed – but may continue in another form

The Free Word Centre, known for housing organisations devoted to literature and free expression closed at the end of May. Housed in a building once occupied by The Guardian on Farringdon Road, owned by 2007 Fritt Ord, a Norwegian philanthropic organisation, the Centre opened in 2009 with eight organisations. Hosting events, a lecture theatre and a café as well as offices, it became a cultural lodestone in Clerkenwell and the Arts Council supported the running costs. The Free Word Centre claimed to be the “world’s first centre for literature and free expression,” dedicated to the transforming power of words. Among the organisations represented at Free Word were Article 19, English PEN, The Reading Agency, Reporters without Borders and The Arvon Foundation.

On Twitter, Daniel Gorman, director of English PEN, said: “It will be hugely missed and I’m very hopeful they get support to continue their crucial work amplifying underrepresented voices.”

The loss has been felt by the literary and journalistic world but while the building is being sold the organisations within are set to continue, and it may not be the end for the Free Word as an entity. A statement on Free Word’s social media says: “We are currently in talks with Arts Council England who have expressed an interest in helping us continue to deliver our vital work of amplifying underrepresented voices.”

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