Free Word in London

Free Word was conceived as a venue and home for the literature and freedom of expression sectors by Ursula Owen, co-founder of Virago Press. It opened in September 2009 supported by the Norwegian freedom of expression charity, Fritt Ord, and Arts Council England.

Apples & Snakes, Article 19, Arvon, Book Trust, English PEN, Index on Censorship, The Literary Consultancy and The Reading Agency became founding residents and collaborators at a time when they felt words had never been more important ‘for identity, for imagination, for communication, for combating censorship, and for negotiating power in a globalized world’. All remain part of the Free Word community today. Reporters Without Borders joined as a resident organisation in 2018.


60 Farringdon Road has been through many creative transformations since it was built as a wheelwright’s workshop in 1875. It has been a music education and film-making studios and The Guardian’s archive, education and exhibition centre before Fritt Ord bought the building and it became Free Word’s home in 2009.

Its location in central Clerkenwell is brimming with a history rich in literature, dissent and social progress. Writers and activists including Dickens and Marx have long been associated with the area, bookstalls lined Farringdon Road from the 1870s to the 1990s, the first social housing was located nearby, and local basements still hold the remnants of printing presses.