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The transformative power of words

About us

The Centre

Exterior facade of Free Word Centre as seen from Farringdon Road.
Free Word Centre. (Photo: George Torode)

Free Word is unique; we are the only international centre for literature, literacy and free expression in the world.

From our London hub, the Free Word Centre, we develop local, national and international collaborations that explore the transformative power of words.

Free Word is a charity: we rely on generous donations from trusts and individuals. You can find out more about how we are funded on our membership page.

We provide a home for six Resident organisations and over 25 Associates, who work across literature, literacy and free expression. We host a year-round programme of events and exhibitions at Free Word Centre and beyond, and we pursue our own artistic programme exploring three Lines of Enquiry: three strands of work that address key issues of our time.

Why literature, literacy and free expression?

We believe that literature, literacy and free expression are interdependent – each supports the others, and must be brought together to thrive.

Literacy grants us access to the written word in all its forms. Literature nurtures our imaginations, letting us explore the world through the voices of others and envision different ways of living. Free expression guarantees us the right to speak, write and think for ourselves and to participate in public life.

Literature, literacy and free expression support one another. By bringing them together under one roof, we are able to harness the transformative power of words – to change lives, empower vital discussion, and transform the society we live in.

Without Free Word, literature, literacy and free expression would have no space to come together, and public discussion would be poorer for it.

Free Word is collaborative

Free Word never works alone; we believe collaborative projects are always better. So we work with our Residents, Associates and other partners, bringing together diverse organisations to create projects that none of us could have made alone.

Working across literature, literacy and free expression lets us forge connections between organisations that would not otherwise know each other. By uniting these three sectors we make each of them more powerful.

Free Word is a creative laboratory

Free word is a space for creativity, discovery and dissent. We bring together pioneering organisations from across literature, literacy and free expression providing them with a safe space to experiment, to try out new ideas and to start conversations.

We support emerging writers and translators, helping them develop their craft and discover new ideas by hosting residencies, events, and provide a space for them to showcase their work.

Free Word is open to you

Free Word Centre has several public spaces. We host events and exhibitions in our lecture theatre and hall, open to the public on weekdays, and there is also a cafe in our foyer, serving fresh food and drink daily.

We look forward to welcoming you at Free Word Centre soon.

History

The Free Word Centre is located at 60 Farringdon Road, London, in a building that dates back to 1875. Originally constructed as a warehouse, it has been occupied by a wheelwright’s workshop, studios for music education and filmmaking, and most recently The Guardian’s archive and education/exhibition centre.

The area’s connection to literature and politics go back centuries. Bookstalls lined the pavements of Farringdon Road from the 1870s to the 1990s, and nearby Clerkenwell Green has been historically associated with radicalism, from the Lollards in the sixteenth century to the Chartists in the nineteenth. In the 1900s, Vladimir Lenin edited the magazine Iskra from 37a Clerkenwell Green. For a full history, we recommend Philippa Lewis's 60 Farringdon Road (commissioned for the launch of Free Word).