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.

Spread the Word Writing Prize

Past Event

‘I am part of all that I have met.’

(Alfred Tennyson)


Community, Ritual and Writing

As a writer, how do you think about and define community? In a time when we’re told we’re all in it together, how flexible is the idea of community? In what ways has the digital revolution changed our rituals and our sense of belonging? From coming-of-age rituals to community celebrations, we'll be asking the panel at this event to take a historical, cultural and socio-political viewpoint.

This timely discussion will land on issues important to writers and readers. Your questions will help shape a lively evening and we promise to leave you inspired, informed and thinking about these themes with new insight. The panel includes Bidisha, Isabel Hilton, Tom Chatfield and Marina Benjamin.

Spread the Word Writing Prize Launch

We will take the opportunity of this summer programme launch to announce details of our new Short Fiction Prize. The winner will receive £1000 and publication by Spread the Word – and we are delighted that our panelist Bidisha will also be one of the judges for the prize.   

For the Spread the Word prize we will be asking you to submit work that explores Ritual and Community, so this evening’s panel and networking event should give you a head start on your thinking about the topics at hand, and we hope it will inspire you to write your winning piece. 

Book a place for this event via the Spread the Word site


Bidisha is a writer, critic and BBC TV and radio broadcaster. She writes for a wide range of international publications and has judged numerous prizes, including the 2009 Orange Prize and the 2010 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. She specializes in the arts and culture, social justice issues and international affairs and is the author of two novels, a travel memoir from Italy and reportage from the Middle East. Her fifth book (out next year) is about asylum seekers and refugees, and is based on outreach work conducted in association with English PEN earlier this year.

Isabel Hilton (OBE) is the editor of china
dialogue.net, and a broadcaster and journalist. She has been presenter of The World Tonight and Night Waves (for BBC Radio), a columnist for The Guardian, staff writer for The New Yorker, and a regular contributor to the New Statesman, Time Magazine, El Pais and the New York Times. Her publications include The General, The Search for the Panchen Lama, The Thinking Man's Guide to the World Cup and Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar.

Tom Chatfield is a British writer and commentator. The author of four books exploring digital culture – most recently How to Thrive in the Digital Age (Pan Macmillan) – his work has appeared in over a dozen territories and languages. Tom has worked as a writer and consultant with companies including Google and Mind Candy, and spoken at forums ranging from TED Global and the World IT Congress to the Sydney Opera House and the Cannes Lions. A fortnightly columnist for the BBC, he also broadcasts internationally, writes fiction, plays jazz piano and tweets @TomChatfield

Marina Benjamin is Senior Editor of Aeon Magazine. Her books range from a study of end-time cults (Living at the End of the World), to an off-beat elegy to the end of the Space Age (Rocket Dreams), to an exploration of community and identity among the Jews of Iraq (Last Days in Babylon). She has an interest in outsider perspective, knowledge cultures, and multi-faith dialogue.

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