It’s been eight weeks since Leeds Student PEN was born, and things have moved fast. Leeds PEN now has a committee of six: Ali, Phe, Alice, Katie, Mailies and Saahirah. We meet every Wednesday to discuss upcoming events and how to promote Leeds PEN as a new group.
Two weeks ago, we wrote letters to imprisoned writers including Mahvash Sabet, Dina Meza, Pornhip Munhong and Patiwat Saraiyaem. All four of these people have been imprisoned for things which, in the UK, we can do freely. Mahvash is a poet and teacher imprisoned in Iran for her peaceful religious beliefs. Dina is a journalist and founding member of PEN Honduras who came under threat for writing about political corruption. Pornhip and Patiwat are Thai students who were imprisoned for writing a play which was interpreted as insulting the king.
We submitted a society formation application to Leeds University Union 3 weeks ago and wait excitedly for news. We got fifty signatures of support on our petition so hopefully Leeds PEN is given the opportunity to expand with the support of LUU. Becoming a society with the union would make it easier for us to organise and promote events within university, allow us to recruit new members at the 2016 Freshers’ Fair and hopefully grant us some funding. This would allow us to stage bigger events and campaigns.
Tonight (7th March) is Leeds PEN’s first film screening event! We are showing The Fifth Estate, about Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and whistleblowing, in a cafe at the union. Next week on Tuesday 15th March is Leeds PEN’s first social – we are going to Bierkeller (meeting at 9pm) and HiFi. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to meet some new faces who are interested in becoming involved with PEN. After Easter we hope to hold more letter writing and film screening events. In addition we plan to hold a literary pub quiz: Phe, with the help of Cambridge Student PEN, has put together some really interesting questions so it should be a fun night!
Everyone on the committee is really enthusiastic about Leeds PEN and I know that we will hold some really great events this year. We’re plugging away with posters and flyers so hopefully more people will want to get involved!!