The London Library is pleased to announce a new one-year partnership with English PEN to support their work with writers at risk and in exile. Starting immediately, The London Library will offer five complimentary Library memberships, providing the writers with full access to the Library’s collection of over a million books and to its extensive online resources.

The first writer to be welcomed into London Library membership under this scheme is Awet Fissehaye, a poet, writer, and lyricist originally from Eritrea the first recipient of the National Poetry Prize for Students in 2000. Fissehaye is an Honorary Member of English PEN and a member of their sister centre, PEN Eritrea in Exile. He has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since 2016.

Awet Fissehaye commented: “After my first unforgettable visit to The London Library, I started to have a feeling that I am frequenting a temple where ideas from books are worshipped. I am a firm believer in books. For me, being offered this London Library membership in partnership with English PEN means that I will be able to access thousands of books of my interest, stretched across generations and cultures. In the past, the lack of space to write and create was the biggest challenge for me. Now, the quiet, well-equipped and well-lit reading and study rooms will offer me the convenience to focus, ruminate, research, and write.”

Philip Marshall, Director of The London Library, commented: “So many writers across the world face ongoing threats to their lives and livelihoods. Through this partnership with English PEN, The London Library is proud to be welcoming writers at risk into our unique community of writers and give them access to our unique resources to support their writing and research.”

Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, commented: “With this partnership, we’re proud to extend our support for writers at risk and in exile who will join The London Library’s prestigious list of members and have access to one of the greatest collections. We’re delighted to consolidate our long-standing collaboration in our 100th year, and the London Library’s 180th.”

Alongside providing membership, The London Library and English PEN are also collaborating on events, more details of which will be announced soon. The events build on those held earlier this year - featuring Salman Rushdie and a celebration of writer Rebecca West - that formed part of the Library’s 180th anniversary LitFest in May and English PEN’s year-long centenary programme, Common Currency. A further extension of the partnership involves English PEN becoming an institutional member of The London Library, and The London Library a Silver PEN partner. 

This will be the first time the two organisations have made a formal partnership, despite close connections over the years. Past English PEN Presidents John Galsworthy, EM Forster and HG Wells were London Library life members and Library Vice-President Rebecca West and member Harold Pinter played prominent roles in the development of English PEN.