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.

Realistic Utopias: Writing for Change

Past Event

Join us to hear five brand-new stories and poems from emerging writers that take a personal look at our rapidly changing world. Can words help inspire us to take action?

This event is now sold out. Please call 020 7324 2570 to join the waiting list. 

As the New Year begins, change and resolutions are in the air. But can words inspire us to take action to help our environment and each other?

Come and listen to short readings from the authors of five new works on climate change that include:

  • A sci-fi take on The Tale of Two Cities.
  • A thrifty love story.
  • Poetry about an ancient people who watched their land swallowed by the sea.
  • A real-life account of when floods and a birthday party collided.
  • A children’s mystery story with a farting elephant.

Following the readings, Professor Harriet Bulkeley, Durham University, will be in conversation with two of the writers and Dr Jane Riddiford, co-founder of Global Generation which works to build community between each other and the natural world. They will explore how stories can help encourage us to take action and imagine new realistic utopias.

Finally, we will explore how community groups on our doorstep are motivating people to be part of environmental change. Global Generation will be asking us to get stuck in as they show us how working with green spaces can be a step towards so much more than green fingers.

Join us for an evening of inspiring words and actions. The Free Word Centre Bar will be open before and after the event so that the conversation – and inspiration – can keep flowing.

This event is now sold out. Please call 020 7324 2570 to join the waiting list. 

Weatherfronts: Climate Change and the Stories We Tell

This evening launches a collection of new writing on our changing world commissioned by TippingPoint, Free Word and Durham University. In May 2016 we brought together writers and climate change experts to explore one of the most urgent issues of our time. All five pieces are inspired by discussions that took part during our Weatherfronts event, and aim to spark further change.


Harriet Bulkeley is Professor of Geography at Durham University. Her research focuses on the processes and politics of environmental governance and she has particular expertise in the areas of climate change, energy and urban sustainability. Her work has examined how and why cities are responding to climate change, the emergence and potential of transnational environmental governance, the ways in which everyday practice shapes energy use, the political economies of energy systems, the nature and potential of community-based energy projects, and the politics of climate justice.

Justina Hart is a poet, novelist, short story writer and non-fiction writer. She has had two books published: a collection of her poems and photographs about the natural world, and a non-fiction book. Her short stories won the Ian St. James Award. Justina writes about the effects that nature and weather have on people. Her current novel, set in an oyster fishing town where stocks have become over-fished, explores the devastating effects this has on the local community. She is an alumnus of Writing West Midlands’ Room 204 career development programme. Justina lives aboard a 160-year-old solar powered ex-working narrow-boat.

Emma Howell writes for children; she has a novel being published by Oxford University Press in June this year as part of their Dominoes series for teenagers. Emma has taught creative writing for over 20 years, primarily working with marginalised and excluded groups, and wants to inspire others to engage with climate change in their work.

Darragh Martin writes plays and children’s books. His work includes The Keeper, ‘Nora and the Sky-Snake’ (in Magic!: New Fairy Tales by Irish Writers), An Air Balloon Across Antarctica, and Climate + Change + Theatre, part of the 350 plays project. Originally from Ireland, Darragh has a PhD from Columbia University, where he designed a class on climate change and literature in 2015. He is also involved in climate activism (as a divestment campaigner and occasional mermaid) and is interested in nurturing further connections between literature, academia, and activism.

Dr Jane Riddiford is the Founding Director of Global Generation an environmental education charity whose home is the Skip Garden in the middle of Kings Cross Estate. Global Generation uses land based activities and experiences to foster a sense of community, which includes different people and all of the natural world. Jane’s love of the outdoors comes from growing up on a farm in New Zealand. After she moved to London in 1996, Jane set up a vocational horticultural training programme for Camden Job Train and managed Rise Phoenix, a community arts organisation. From these experiences Global Generation was born.

Sarah Thomas is a non-fiction writer working in the genres of new nature writing and memoir. She is currently undertaking a PhD in creative writing at the University of Glasgow; her thesis is a memoir based on when she lived in remote north-west Iceland and the country came to the world’s attention for several environmental reasons. In 2013, Sarah was selected as Penguin Summer Wayfarer – a ‘mobile Writer in Residence’, walking across Britain guided only by what and who she met on the way. She has been published in EarthLines Magazine, Dark Mountain, and Caught by the River.

David Thorpe is a writer who believes that with imagination we can change the world. He is the author of the cli-fi novel Stormteller which led to his presence on Hay Festival’s first cli-fi panel in 2015, and he won the HarperCollinsSaga Magazine 2006 Childrens Novelist competition with his YA novel Hybrids. He also co-authored the Doc Chaos anti-nuclear novella, comics, TV and film scripts. David’s non-fiction includes many articles on carbon-free energy and sustainable development, as well as several academic books. He has written for Greenpeace and Oxfam. David is a co-Founder and Patron of One Planet Council.

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