Writers at Liberty

Posted by George Pope on 04 December 2013

Writers have always been a big part of Liberty. Since our very inception, as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in 1934, they’ve played a key role in our fight to protect civil liberties and promote human rights in Britain.

Indeed, when the NCCL was officially formed via a letter to the Manchester Guardian on February 24, almost 80 years ago, the signatories included H.G. Wells and Vera Brittain. Other writers active in our early years included E.M. Forster, our first President, A.A. Milne, a former Vice President, George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and J.B Priestley.

Throughout Liberty’s history, Orwell’s observations on the power of language “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable” have rung true. This was at its most evident throughout the so-called “War on Terror”, during which special phrases were crafted to twist the public’s consciousness and sanitise abomination. “Extraordinary rendition” was not beautiful singing but kidnap and torture; “waterboarding” was not a seaside sport but a euphemism for simulated drowning.

In 2008, 42 writers came together to oppose 42 days’ detention without charge. The concept was simple – 42 pieces of writing displayed on an online calendar. The pieces were imaginative and varied, and the results were even mentioned in the House of Lords debate on the eve of the vote. The illiberal legislation was duly defeated and the power of those words remains forever on the public record.

To continue this fine tradition, we now have in place a 120-strong group known as “Writers at Liberty”. This loose coalition of writers are on hand to assist us in our role to raise awareness, communicate and persuade when it comes to pressing human rights and civil liberties issues in the UK. They will help us, both individually and collectively, to reframe the debate in language that cuts through confusion, illuminates injustice and holds those in power to account.

Next year Liberty turns 80. The challenges are stacking up – mass surveillance of our online communications; the scandal of undercover police infiltrating peaceful protest movements and grieving families; access to justice decimated via legal aid cuts. Meanwhile the Conservative Party has vowed to include a pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act in their manifesto for the 2015 general election.

Writers at Liberty will play a big part next year as we seek to tackle those challenges head-on. Their first project will be unveiled in February, so stay tuned to the Liberty website and our social media channels for updates in the new year.

  • The full Writers at Liberty group includes:

Riz Ahmed, Naomi Alderman, Yasmin Alhibai-Brown, Tariq Ali, Martin Amis, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hephzibah Anderson, Lisa Appignanesi, Chloe Aridjis, Tash Aw, Damian Barr, Alex Bellos, John Berger, Bidisha, Eleanor Birne, TerenceBlacker, Malorie Blackman, Rosie Boycott, William Boyd, Margaret Busby, Antonia Byatt, Georgia Byng, Shami Chakrabarti, Tracy Chevalier, Ian Cobain, Edmund De Waal, Jenny Diski, Cory Doctorow, Anne Donovan, Tishani Doshi, Stella Duffy, Ian Dunt, Joe Dunthorne, Geoff Dyer, Fernanda Eberstadt, Lauren Elkin, Bernadine Evaristo, Michel Faber, Jenni Fagan, William Fiennes, Judith Flanders, Ken Follett, Hadley Freeman, Patrick French, Esther Freud, Janice Galloway, Misha Glenny, Niven Govinden, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jay Griffiths, Niall Griffiths, Mark Haddon, Sarah Hall, Mohsin Hamid, Peter Hobbs, Tom Hodgkinson, Marina Hyde, M. J Hyland, Rhian Jones, Sadie Jones, Jackie Kay, Emily King, Hari Kunzru, Olivia Laing, Nick Laird, Nikita Lalwani, Darian Leader, Ann Leslie, Kathy Lette, Deborah Levy, Richard Mabey, Alison MacLeod, Sabrina Mahfouz, Hisham Matar, Lise Mayer, Sophie Mayer, Hollie McNish, Michael Morpurgo, Blake Morrison, Tiffany Murray, Daljit Nagra, Patrick Ness, Lawrence Norfolk, Rachel North, Richard Norton-Taylor, Maggie O’Farrell, Catherine O’Flynn, Ben Okri, Don Paterson, Shyama Perera, Adam Phillips, Hannah Pool, Philip Pullman, Ross Raisin, Alice Rawsthorn, Philip Ridley, James Robertson, Michael Rosen, Hannah Rothschild, Elif Shafak, Taiye Selasi, Kamila Shamsie, Jo Shapcott, Owen Sheers, Nikesh Shukla, Hardeep Singh-Kholi, Lemn Sissay, Ali Smith, Daniel Soar, Ahdaf Soueif, Craig Taylor, Barbara Taylor, Kate Tempest, Colin Thubron, Salley Vickers, Erica Wagner, Helen Walsh, Marina Warner, Sarah Waters, Irvine Welsh.