Roma Backhouse has been appointed as the new director of Free Word, an international organisation dedicated to literature, literacy and free expression, to succeed current director Rose Fenton in September.
Backhouse, who has 15 years' experience in directing cultural and creative collaborations, founded the Bloomsbury Festival, where she established a large and diverse network of partners to deliver a wide-ranging cultural programme. She has worked with charities and arts organisations at local, national and international levels and is also a former Clore fellow with a background in English Literature.
Tim Duffy, chair of the Free Word board of trustees and founder of M&C Saatchi, said: “We are thrilled to have someone of Roma’s calibre building on the wonderful work done by Rose and her team. The board of trustees and I look forward to working with Roma to develop and expand the impact of Free Word over the coming years.”
Backhouse said: "I could not be more delighted to be Rose’s successor at Free Word. Literature, literacy and freedom of expression are so vitally important in the world today; to have the opportunity to curate a space where they meet is very exciting indeed. I am looking forward to working with all our residents, associates, and partners, to explore big contemporary issues through powerful writing.”
Fenton steps down after five years as director. Under Fenton's leadership, Free Word underwent extensive refurbishment and developed its current programme themes in order to establish itself as a vibrant hub for literature.
She commented: “It has been an immense privilege to have been at the helm and work alongside some wonderful colleagues during these formative years for Free Word. I am thrilled that Roma will be taking on this position. I look forward to watching Free Word continue to grow in its unique role as a meeting place for literature, literacy and free expression. In these fractured times the space that Free Word provides is needed more than ever.”