Pick up a banned book and celebrate the freedom to read with Banned Books Week 24-30 September 2017

A coalition of UK-based organisations will host a variety of panels, events and discussions this month to explore the freedom to read as part of the internationally-celebrated Banned Books Week.

Beginning with a workshop on 16 September hosted by Spread the Word and Islington Libraries and running until 30 September, the goal is to raise awareness about the many ways literature and ideas are censored – and celebrate our freedom to read.

Censorship isn’t something that happens far away. It has happened in the UK. In every library there are books that British citizens have been blocked from reading at various times. As citizens and literature lovers we must be constantly vigilant to guard against the erosion of our freedom to read, Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship said.

Events include an evening of discussion with Melvyn Bragg and guests on The Satanic Verses controversy at the British Library; a discussion on the “unsayable” with cartoonist Martin Rowson; authors Patrice Lawrence and Alex Wheatle on writing for young people; and David Aaronovitch and guests exploring tactics used to censor voices around the world at Free Word.

Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the RSL, said: It’s an irony that the list of books banned over the last centuries, whether by religious or political authorities jealous of their power, constitutes the very best of our literatures. From the Bible to Thomas Paine, Flaubert, G.B. Shaw to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, some of the greatest of our books have been banned somewhere. Luckily humans have a way of valuing the prohibited and cherishing liberty; and this as George Orwell reminded us, ‘means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’

Islington Libraries has produced a list of some of the world’s best-known banned books for the occasion and is encouraging everyone to pick up a banned book.

Islington Council’s executive member for economic development, Cllr Asima Shaikh, said: Islington – one-time home of George Orwell, Douglas Adams and Salman Rushdie himself – has a rich history of radical thought and creative expression and innovation, making it a natural fit with Banned Books Week.

Our libraries are places which celebrate diversity of opinion and encourage new and interesting ideas. As a borough we continue to challenge censorship and encourage free speech, and we are very proud to be involved in such a great celebration.

Celebrated works of literature that have experienced bans or censorship include Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

For more information, please contact Sean Gallagher, Index on Censorship, on sean@indexoncensorship.org.

Full schedule of Banned Books Week events

  • 16 September: Research for fiction writers with Kerry Young
    Presented by Spread the Word
    Award-winning author, Kerry Young, is running a workshop for writers who want to research and write characters from a range of backgrounds.

  • 22 September: Patrice Lawrence and Alex Wheatle in conversation
    Presented by Archway With Words
    ArchWay With Words presents a thrilling event with two of Britain’s most exciting, prize-winning writers who tell stories about young people.

  • 24 September: How far can you go in speaking the unspeakable?
    Presented by Index on Censorship and Pembroke College
    What is the place of the satirist in our age of controversies? The irreverent cartoonist Martin Rowson, of The Guardian and Index on Censorship magazine, joins publisher Joanna Prior of Penguin Random House for what promises to be a coruscating conversation.

  • 26 September: Censored: A Literary History of Subversion and Control
    Presented by the British Library
    Katherine Inglis and Matthew Fellion, authors of a fascinating new book on suppressed literature, explore the methods and consequences of censorship and some of the most contentious and fascinating cases.

  • 27 September: What happens when ideas are silenced?
    Presented by Index on Censorship and Free Word
    Join award-winning journalist David Aaronovitch in conversation with Irish author Claire Hennessy and publisher Lynn Gaspard, as they explore what happens when ideas are silenced. With readings by Moris Farhi and Bidisha.

  • 27 September: Censored at The Book Hive, Norwich
    Presented by Index on Censorship
    Join Index on Censorship magazine Deputy Editor Jemimah Steinfeld in conversation with Matthew Fellion and Katherine Inglis, authors of the new book Censored: A Literary History of Subversion and Control.

  • 28 September: How censorship stifles debate
    Presented by the Limerick City Trust
    Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg will speak about how censorship stifles debate and undermines the tenets of free and democratic societies.

  • 28 September: Standing with Salman
    Presented by the British Library and the Royal Society of Literature
    Nearly 20 years after Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding following the publication of The Satanic Verses, members of the Salman Rushdie Campaign Group re-unite to talk about their fight for freedom of expression.

  • 30 September: J G Ballard’s Crash: On Page and Screen
    Presented by the British Library
    Revisit the shock of symphorophilia with Will Self and Chris Beckett, editor of a new edition of Crash. Their discussion is followed by a rare chance to see the uncut version of David Cronenberg’s 1996 film adaptation on the big screen.

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