Banned Books Week goes nationwide in 2018

Banned Books Week Coalition 2018

  • Annual event celebrating the freedom to read takes place 23-29 September
  • Libraries, bookshops and schools nationwide urged to get involved
  • National organisations encouraging everyone to read a “banned” book
  • Slate of events will explore the censorship of ideas

UK-based organisations will host events across Britain this year to mark Banned Books Week: bringing the internationally-celebrated event to a UK-wide audience for the first time.

Mirroring a similar initiative in the United States, the organisations – including the British Library, Index on Censorship, Royal Society of Literature and English PEN – are encouraging libraries, book shops, schools and reading groups to hold events that celebrate the freedom to read and challenge the silencing of voices and ideas.

“This year marks 50 years since we abolished government censorship of the theatre in this country,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship, one of the groups spearheading Banned Books Week UK. “It’s a good time to think about what is getting published today and why – and who are the modern censors.”

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

Banned Books Week will take place from September 23 to 29 2018. Events will include a special evening at the British Library marking the Theatres Act 1968, which abolished theatre censorship in the United Kingdom, as well as readings and talks across the country.

“The British Library is delighted to be a partner in Banned Books Week 2018” said Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library. “We are looking forward to events in the autumn in which we’ll be holding conversations about theatrical censorship past and present, and encourage libraries, bookshops and schools across the country to join in by hosting their own events and getting everyone involved in debating this vital issue.”

Previous Banned Books Week events have included discussions on The Satanic Verses controversy; a talk on the “unsayable” with cartoonist Martin Rowson; and David Aaronovitch and guests exploring tactics used to censor voices around the world. Anyone interested in hosting their own event is urged to do so under the Banned Books Banner and resources will be made available for schools and libraries later in the year.

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

For more information, please contact Jodie Ginsberg at [email protected].

Notes to editors

  • Banned Books Week was launched in the United States in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in attempts to have books removed or otherwise restricted in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association, a key member of the Banned Books Week coalition.
  • The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom holding more than 170 million items from many countries, in many languages and formats, both print and digital. The British Library seeks to preserve, store and make available our intellectual heritage to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.
  • English PEN is the founding centre of a global literary network that promotes the freedom to write and the freedom to read. English PEN campaigns to defend freedom of expression in the UK and around the world; holds public events to showcase the best in contemporary literature; supports literary translation by awarding grants to publishers and works with communities across the UK.
  • Free Word explores the power and politics of words. We bring together a rich variety of the most exciting writers and thinkers – the new and the established. We spark critical conversations about society, culture and politics, and we amplify voices that often go unheard. In our distinctive building in Clerkenwell, we host dynamic public events and provide a home and hub to other organisations that champion freedom of expression by nourishing writers, readers, speakers and listeners.
  • Index on Censorship is a London-based non-profit organisation that publishes work by censored writers and artists and campaigns against censorship worldwide. Since its founding in 1972, Index on Censorship has published some of the greatest names in literature in its award-winning quarterly magazine, including Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Arthur Miller and Kurt Vonnegut. It also has published some of the world’s best campaigning writers from Vaclav Havel to Elif Shafik. In 2017, Index became the first international member of the US-based Banned Books Week Coalition.
  • Islington Council’s Library Service is based in London and has a key role in enabling access to knowledge, skills and information. It has been part of a Banned Books Week coalition for the past two years and celebrates the Right to Read with events, booklists and book promotions, working in partnership with the British Library, Royal Society of Literature, Free Word, Spread the Word and Index on Censorship.
  • The Royal Society of Literature is Britain’s national charity for the advancement of literature. We encourage and honour writers, engage people in appreciating literature, and act as a voice for its value.
  • The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service.
  • Spread the Word is London’s writer development agency, which means we are here to help London’s writers make their mark – on the page, the screen and in the world. We do this by kick starting the careers of London’s best new writers, and energetically campaigning to ensure that publishing truly reflects the diversity of the city. We support the creative and professional development of writing talent, by engaging those already interested in literature and those who will be, and by advocating on behalf of both.
  • The Publishers Association represents book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK, spanning fiction and non-fiction, academic and educational publishing. Our members include global companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, Pearson, Penguin Random House, Hachette and the University presses, as well as many independent publishing houses. Our objective as an association is to provide our members with the influence, insight and services necessary to compete and prosper.