Free Word Centre

Free Word is an international centre for literature, literacy and free expression based at 60 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London. It develops local, national and international collaborations that explore the transformative power of words.

Free Word is a charity. It relies on the generosity of supporters, core funders - Arts Council England and Fritt Ord - and income from hiring out its space. Its former Director until 2016 was Rose Fenton and the current Director is Roma Backhouse.

Free Word Centre opened in June 2009 and hosts six Resident organisations, including ARTICLE 19, English PEN, Arvon, Apples and Snakes, The Literary Consultancy, and The Reading Agency. As well as providing office space for its Residents, it also hosts a programme of public events.[1]


The idea for Free Word emerged in 2004, when literature and free expression organisations met to discuss ways of working together. Eight founder organisations, the project director Ursula Owen and project managers Virginia Barry and Penny Mayes worked together over several years. In 2007 Fritt Ord, a Norwegian foundation, was persuaded by their vision and purchased the former newsroom and archive building of The Guardian newspaper in Farringdon Road for Free Word.[2]


The following seven organisations are residents at Free Word Centre:


  1. "Upcoming Events | Free Word Centre". Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  2. Charlotte Higgins, "New literature centre Free Word to open in Clerkenwell", The Guardian, 14 July 2009.
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