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In Other Words – the ICORN Network Meeting 2017


Fáteme Echtesárí v Lillehammeru na setkání ICORN a jednání výboru PEN International pro vězněné autory

The biennial ICORN Network Meeting & PEN International WiPC conference will be held in Lillehammer 31 May-2 June 2017. When freedom of expression is threatened, curtailed or outlawed, artists and writers are compelled to find ever more inventive ways to evade authoritarian repression. New forms, new words, new means of resistance emerge at every turn and in every language.

In Other Words, the joint ICORN Network Meeting & PEN International WiPC Conference in Lillehammer in May 2017, will gather more than 300 writers, artists, activists, city representatives and other guests from 60 countries, who will engage in the exploration and a celebration of the resilience of art and literature in the face of a ‘post truth’ world.

Topics such as Safeguarding freedom of expression in Turkey: What next?, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o in conversation with Grace Mutandwa, The future of protection, One day in Aleppo, Connecting Arts and Human Rights and The landscape of residencies will be treated in workshops, panels, screenings, reading and more, along with fresh eyewitness reports from areas where writers, artists and human rights defenders are most threatened.

We are proud to organize the 2017 ICORN Network Meeting jointly with the PEN International and their Writers in Prison Committee Conference, and in close cooperation with the City of Lillehammer and the Norwegian Festival of Literature (30 May – 4 June).

Opening performance and support for imprisoned writers

Opening performance for the biennial ICORN Network Meeting -PEN International WiPC Conference in Maihaugsalen, Lillehammer Wednesday May 31 May at 8 pm

Distinguished artists from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Palestine and Norway will perform a specially curated piece exploring the experience of exile and being silenced. Through a rich variety of genres and elements the performance will touch on the necessity of having to invent new forms, new words and new means of resistance against repression and persecution. In this way, the audience will experience how writers and artists throughout time have expressed themselves in ways that no censorship or rulers can attack, retaining the ability to transmit their critical message to people with open hearts and minds.

In this new piece Iranian singers Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat will perform together with Norwegian actress Juni Dahr, pianist Tord Gustavsen, percussionist Kenneth Ekornes and the Lillehammer choir Mjøsikale. The audience will also experience Syrian dancer Ahmad Joudeh, Afghan musician Hamid Sakhizada, Palestinian rapper Khaled Harara, Afghan film creator Mohsen Hosaini and Norwegian artist Moddi together with Sami singer Marja Mortenson.

Several of the participating artists live and work in cities in Norway, elsewhere in Scandinavia or Europe, thanks to the cooperative efforts of PEN International and ICORN for writers and artists at risk. The piece is produced and curated by Erik Hillestad.

After the opening, we encourage everyone to take part in the Imprisoned writers event in the centre of Lillehammer, when ICORN writers and artists join in readings and appeals with writers from the Norwegian Festval of Literature, supporting imprisoned writers, and in particular Asli Erdogan (Tyrkia), Narges Mahammadi (Iran), Khadija Ismailova (Azerbaijan), whom have been officially invited by the festival.

You couldn't make this up

Introduced by Chair of the PEN WiPC, Salil Tripathi, the keynote speech on Thursday morning, will be held by author Kamila Shamsie. In a world in which the phrase ‘you couldn’t make this up’ is increasingly on people’s lips as an expression of despair, Shamsie poses talks about the role of literature and the responsibility of the writer. She asks: What is the role of the imagination? Has the reality in which we find ourselves made the novel irrelevant, outdated, or at best a form of escapism? And what responsibility do writers bear for their silences, complicity, or unseeing over the course of our increasingly bleak century?

The full programme is available at the bottom of this page. Please note that it is still subject to change.

Lillehammer City of Refuge

The Norwegian City of Lillehammer is this year's official host to the ICORN Network Meeting. Lillehammer has been a member of ICORN and hosted persecuted writers and artists since 2008. The official member and managing institution of the ICORN programme is the Municipality of Lillehammer, partnered with the Norwegian Festival of Literature, Lillehammer House of Literature, Lillehammer library, The Nansen Humanistic Academy, Lillehammer University College, Bjerkebæk and Aulestad – the homes of The Nobel Prize in Literature winners Sigrid Undset and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Since 2008, Lillehammer have hosted three writers, Prudence Uriri, Hai Bah Huyn, and Nama Jafari, and recently welcomed Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi.

The Norwegian Festival of Literature

The Norwegian Festival of Literature is the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries, attracting 25 000 visitors. The festival is a celebration of literary endeavour, addressing literary, social and political matters in a series of seminars, public debates, readings, theatre-performances, concerts and film-screenings open to a wide audience.

The full festival programme will be launched April 4.

PEN International and their Writers in Prison Committee

PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression. Founded in London in 1921 and now with over 140 independent centres across the globe, PEN International connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work, and a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries through its The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC). WiPC holds a biannual Conference, where members from affiliated committees in its centres meet to discuss developments in freedom of expression around the world, to share experiences in campaigning and to bring public attention to egregious violations of the freedom of expression of individual writers.

Norwegian PEN

Norwegian PEN is the Norwegian division of PEN International, and is the local partner of PEN International in the organisation of the biennial PEN International WiPC conference. Like several European and North American centers, Norwegian PEN works primarily with freedom of expression issues, mostly internationally. Norwegian PEN is active in International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee and the IFEX (International Freedom of Expression exchange) network.

ICORN - International Cities of Refuge Network

The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) offers temporary, long-term safe residencies to writers, journalists and artists at risk, so they can continue their work without fear of persecution. By 2017, more than 60 cities had joined the network, to host writers and artists who face threats and persecution. The Cities of Refuge are located across Europe, the United States, Canada and Latin America, and will expand towards South Africa, Australia and Asia in the coming years.


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