Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Elif Shafak headline English PEN's 100th celebrations

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Elif Shafak headline English PEN's 100th celebrations

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Elif Shafak and Max Porter are among the authors and activists headlining English PEN’s centenary celebrations at the Southbank Centre this autumn.

The event will run for three days from 24th to 26th September, exploring “literature, exile, free expression, translation, activism, and solidarity, drawn from English PEN’s rich history of protecting writers and readers across the world".

Headliners include authors Ngozi Adichie, Shafak (pictured) and Kit de Waal along with Booker-shortlisted Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga, publisher-turned author Porter and publisher Margaret Busby, recenty awarded a CBE. Other speakers include Edmund de Waal along with publisher Ellah P Wakatama, writer and translator Daniel Hahn, and Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates.

Artist Ai Weiwei has created an outdoor digital artwork to accompany proceedings for English PEN’s centenary. There will also be an evening of new work on themes of sisterhood and solidarity, hosted by Mona Arshi and curated by Rachel Long. 

To open the festival, bestselling author and PEN Pinter Prize 2018 winner Ngozi Adichie will reflect on her writing, including her latest book Notes on Grief (Fourth Estate), in conversation with writer Nesrine Malik on 24th September. In "Why Toni Morrison Matters", Busby will discuss the late author’s legacy with Dangarembga and Mohamed on 25th September. On the final evening of English PEN 100, the not-for-profit's president and human rights lawyer Philippe Sands will be joined by Dangarembga, writer and academic Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, and Shafak to reflect on free expression and writing, in their own work and across the world. 

Founded in 1921, English PEN, one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, is also marking its centenary with the year-long programme, Common Currency. This brings together renowned and emerging writers, readers and activists for timely debates and discussions. The themes of the programme, inspired by the PEN charter, include free speech and democracy, language and ideas, and a celebration of women. 

Ted Hodgkinson, head of literature and spoken word at Southbank Centre,  said: “We’re delighted to welcome English PEN, one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, for a festival that celebrates a century of great writing and the abiding relevance of their courageous campaigning. With English PEN 100, we reflect on the pivotal role the organisation played for women writers in the UK, for free expression globally, and for readers and writers everywhere.” 

He added: “As the Southbank Centre reopens its doors, we invite you all to join us for a lively and illuminating weekend with some of the world’s most exciting writers.” 

Daniel Gorman, director of English PEN, said: “For the past 100 years, English PEN has championed freedom of expression and literature across the world. This year, as we mark our centenary, we explore and expand on the founding themes of the organisation: language and ideas crossing borders, free speech and democracy, and a celebration of women’s voices. We’re thrilled to welcome some of the world’s greatest writers for an ambitious programme at the Southbank Centre that will continue conversations, ideas, debates that we hope will inspire the next 100 years.” 

For more information or to book, visit the Southbank Centre website.