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PEN Founder Mrs. Dawson Scott


Originally founded in London in 1921 as a creative forum to unite international writers and promote literature and free expression, PEN International has been growing for 90 years and today has 144 Centres in 102 countries across the globe. Visit this page to see what different centres are doing to celebrate PEN’s 90th Anniversary and read about ways to get involved.

How PEN centres are celebrating around the world

PEN American Center: World Voices Festival

Writers from around the world convene in New York City to celebrate the power of the written word in action. Marking PEN American Center’s 90th anniversary, this year’s festival features performances, discussions, one-on-one conversations and readings, at venues from Harlem to Wall Street, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA.

PEN American Center: Reflections on PEN’s History

Throughout 2012, PEN American Center will be celebrating PEN’s 90th anniversary by looking at the key events, cases, and characters from the organization’s history. PEN’s benchmark moments will be placed in a monthly series of interactive timelines, broken down by decade. Discover more here.

English PEN: Empty Chair sculpture, Witness, by Antony Gormley

English PEN commissioned sculpture by Anthony Gormley at British Library, December 2011
In 2011, English PEN commissioned Gormley to create a sculpture of the empty chair for permanent exhibition at the British Library. For thirty years PEN has used the image of the empty chair to symbolise imprisoned writers. The cast-iron sculpture was unveiled in December to commemorate PEN’s 90th anniversary. Photo © Clare Kendall

English PEN: ‘I have an idea!’ An exploration of PEN’s founder

In 2011 English PEN kicked off celebrations by holding an event to explore the life of PEN’s founder. Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN, chaired the event, joined by Amy Dawson Scott’s granddaughter, Marjorie Ann Watts, illustrator and writer, Simon Barker, author of a study of the life and work of John Galsworthy, and Victoria Glendinning, the biographer and former President of English PEN.

English PEN: Writing Freedom Competition

In 2011 English PEN published The Book That Saved My Life, an output of its Readers and Writers programme. The programme was founded to promote literacy and literature among socially excluded children, young people and adults, and has been sending writers and their books into prison communities in the UK for over a decade. To celebrate the beginning of PEN’s 90th Anniversary year, the PEN Writing Freedom competition was launched and prisoners were invited to write about their lives or review a book that has been important to them, in the context of the theme ‘freedom’.

Share your information and photographs with us at communications@pen-international.org and we’ll promote your centre on our website, on the PEN International Blog and via Twitter

How to get involved

Individual Supporters

Are you passionate about literature and defending freedom of expression? Would you like to support the work of PEN International? Then

– make a donation

– raise funds on behalf of PEN International through sponsored events and fundraisers (contact fundraising@pen-international.org for more details)

– sign up to our regular PEN newsletters, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @pen_int to keep informed

– spread the word about PEN. Introduce PEN to your friends and contacts.

Funders and Partners

If you are interested in finding out more about PEN International or becoming an 90th Anniversary Partner please contact our Executive Director Laura McVeigh at laura.mcveigh@pen-international.org or +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 to discuss how we could work together.