Initiatives – Free Word Centre

Free Word Centre to open in London

 image

The new Free Word Centre will open on Tuesday, 15 September 2009, at 60 Farringdon Road in London, with participation from the Fritt Ord Foundation. The property used to be the Guardian Newsroom Building.

In Norway, freedom of expression is largely determined by international policy, legislation and media trends. For that reason, since the 1970s, the Fritt Ord Foundation has maintained professional relations with and provided support for three London-based organisations: Index on Censorship, Article 19 and International PEN. All of them have world-wide activities. They recently played a prominent part in the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression organised from 1 to 6 June 2009 in Oslo. The Fritt Ord Foundation was co-organiser and initiator: http://expressionforum.org.

In recent years, freedom of expression has been curtailed in a number of countries. Accordingly, there is a need for far better contact and cooperation across national frontiers among organisations dedicated to promoting freedom of expression. To be able to act more clearly and to put forward even more cogent arguments on behalf of free speech, it was decided that nine organisations would locate their offices under the same roof in central London.

For this purpose, the Fritt Ord Foundation bought a piece of property from the Guardian Media Group at 60 Farringdon Road for MNOK 67 in 2007. After extensive planning among the organisations, the building is now ready to accommodate them. The British are very interested in further contact with Norwegian cultural life in this area. The agreement with the Fritt Ord Foundation is that the tenants can benefit from being located in the building on favourable terms for up to 12 years. At that point, the Fritt Ord Foundation will sell the property at market price, and possibly move on to support other targeted initiatives.

In addition to promoting freedom of expression on the international arena, the Free Word Centre will provide a venue for cultural exchanges in a variety of media. The festival programme for 16 September to 9 October 2009 offers a 'teaser' in respect of the activities planned for the public, see www.freewordonline.com. The website posted by the Free Word Centre also offers a presentation of the nine organisations involved. The building has enough space for 75 employees.

The Free Word Centre aspires to become an international centre for freedom of expression. It may also serve as a bridgehead for intensifying joint international British-Norwegian efforts. The centre is supported by the Arts Council England.