Welcome to Free Word. Interested in exploring the political and cultural power of words? Join us at an upcoming event or read about the themes we explore.

Our Staff

Free Word is run by a small, dedicated staff led by Director Roma Backhouse.

Roma Backhouse

Roma’s lifelong fascination with the power of culture has seen her producing projects that bridge the social and arts sectors since 2000.

In 2006, she founded the Bloomsbury Festival – a fusion of creativity and ideas involving a network of over 100 partners and 60 venues, including individual artists and community organisations alongside major partners such as The British Museum, The Foundling Museum, The Place, RADA, SOAS, UCL and Wellcome Collection.

She has programmed and produced extensively, from candlelit poetry in hidden architectural spaces with Faber & Faber, to contemporary dance in the Great Court of the British Museum with Icon Dance, from world music stages in Russell Square with SOAS, to large-scale participatory projects with Same Sky.

Roma has also worked as a consultant and advisor with the BBCVisit England and Holborn Community Association amongst others.

A love of literature and reading has underpinned and informed her life.  She has degrees in English Literature and Language from the University of Oxford, and Modern Literature and Culture from the University of York.  She completed a Clore Fellowship in 2013.

In 2016, Roma took up the role of Director at Free Word, with an ambition to explore the power and politics of words, bring together the most exciting writers and thinkers, and amplify voices that often go unheard.

Clare Callan
Season Producer

Clare has worked in arts programming, producing and communications since 2008.

Clare joined Free Word as a Season Producer in 2018, having previously worked at Tamasha, a theatre company foregrounding artists from culturally diverse backgrounds. During her time there, amongst other projects, she produced the company’s first film – Taxi Tales. She’s also worked for Future Shorts/Secret Cinema, Birds Eye View Film Festival, The UK Green Film Festival, Alpha-ville Digital Arts & Culture Festival, Kings Place Music Foundation, Underbelly and the Barbican.

In 2014, Clare completed an MA at Goldsmiths University on film and urban experience and has a degree in English Literature. She’s an occasional writer and consultant for Run Riot online magazine, dabbles in filmmaking/audio production and is passionate about equality.

Zain Dada
Season Producer

Zain joined Free Word as a Season Producer in 2018.

He has a degree in Politics and History from SOAS and previously worked at the Bush Theatre. He’s run poetry workshops as a Sessional Youth Worker, worked as a Sabbatical Officer at SOAS Students’ Union, and was previously the recipient of an Aziz Foundation scholarship studying Creative Writing & Education at Goldsmiths.

Zain is also Co-Founder of Khidr Collective: a multi-disciplinary arts group which platforms the work of young Muslim artists, producing a bi-annual publication of essays, fiction, poetry, comics and illustrations from across the UK and internationally.

Tim Fletcher
Head of Venue

Before joining the Free Word team in 2012 and becoming our longest serving member of staff, Tim worked as Operations Manager at Jacksons Lane. Previous to that, he worked with Trestle Theatre Company at their Arts Base in St Albans, and has a degree in English Literature with Drama from the University of Hertfordshire.

When Tim’s not overseeing the smooth running of our venue, a good book, theatre, music and copious amounts of tea are his main ways to unwind.

Jo Gooding
Development Manager

Jo has worked in Development since 2010. Her most recent role was at anti-corruption and human rights organisation Global Witness. Prior to that, she worked in the social justice sector in Bristol for independent legal aid charity, Talking Money.

Jo has a degree in Philosophy and Politics from the University of Warwick, completed a postgraduate course in English Literature at the University of Bristol and has an MSc in Palaeobiology. She also trained as an upholsterer and co-ran a vegan café.

Jo’s had a life-long interest in words and how we wield them in our personal and political lives, and joined the Free Word team in 2017.

Benedict Lombe
Communications Manager

Bene was formerly Digital wiz at WrightJ and Motel Studios. Originally from a performance background, she previously studied Scriptwriting and worked in the theatre industry, learning the ropes at Paines Plough. She co-founded Rat’s Nest, a human rights-led arts organisation, where she utilised theatre to raise awareness for the plight of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and campaign against sexual assault.

She remains vocal and active on issues of gender, race and social inequality, and most recently teamed up with The World Transformed to organise a political festival for young people to mobilise around issues of education, mental health, housing, employment and identity; exploring ways to bring about tangible social, political and economic change.

Bene’s favourite phrase is ‘radical change’ and she fully intends to wear it out until it comes into existence.

Cath Longman-Jones
Resources Director

Cath grew up in Southport, Rugby, Stockport and Exeter, and spent most of her childhood singing. After a music and drama degree at Birmingham University and a year in northern Italy teaching English and learning Italian, she produced small-scale fringe shows for a decade, while working as a theatre Administrator, Producer and General Manager for the likes of Hampstead Theatre, Hoipolloi and the Gate Theatre.

Cath then trained as a chartered accountant with Baker Tilly (now RSM UK), spent several years as Finance Manager at Crafts Council, and provided freelance finance support for Free Word and other small charities and arts organisations. She was delighted to take on the role of Resources Director in autumn 2017.

Cath is also a Trustee and Treasurer of You Make It and former Trustee of Birth Companions and Hoipolloi. 

Mana Maye
Finance Assistant

Mana joined Free Word as our part-time Finance Assistant in 2017.

Alongside her role at Free Word, she also works as a Bookkeeper for a charity supporting families in Camden, and has previously worked as an Accounts Assistant for a large hotel.

Mana lives in North London with her husband and young daughter, and enjoys baking and vintage cinema.

Alex Moran
Operations and Communications Coordinator

Before joining Free Word in 2015, Alex worked in a museum, gallery and theatre space in Southport, Merseyside. He graduated in Screenwriting from the London Film Academy in 2013.

Alongside his post at Free Word, he works as a freelance Screenwriter and Script Reader.

Alex loves film, music, the arts, and talking about himself in the third person.

Alex Solo
Building and Events Coordinator

Alex joined Free Word in 2015. He has produced events across both London and Manchester since 2008, worked as a Scenic Artist at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster, a self-employed decorator, cooked food in Jamaican and French restaurants, made music for adverts, and oversaw words and riffs for the generative video project Midnight Oil (2017). Alex has an MA from UCL(Issues in Modern Culture), and a BA from MMU (English Literature). He enjoys writing, reading and looking after his club-and-culture night ‘Babalonia’.

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