Can Writing Change the World?

Hosted by the LSE Library, the Orwell Youth Prize and LSE Literary Festival

Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building,


James Ball

James Ball

Alan Gibbons

Alan Gibbons

Rebecca Omonira

Rebecca Omonira


Gavin Freeguard

Gavin Freeguard

In this event aimed at young writers aged 13-18, a panel of journalists, writers and historians discuss the role of writing (in all forms) in changing the world: from big journalistic scoops, to bringing attention to stories that people don’t often hear, to the subtler changing of readers’ minds through works of fiction. 

George Orwell wrote in his famous 1946 essay Why I Write that ‘political purpose’ was his main motive for writing. By this he meant “desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after”. Orwell wrote books, he said, “because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing”. His starting point was “always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice”. He believed in the importance of using language to describe reality and the dangers of using language for propaganda.

James Ball (@jamesrbuk) is a special correspondent for BuzzFeed News, having previously worked at the Guardian, where he was a core journalist on investigations including the publication of the NSA files received from Edward Snowden, the Reading the Riots project after the 2011 London Riots and reporting on the WikiLeaks' Guantanamo Bay files. He has also worked for the International Bureau of Investigative Journalism and WikiLeaks. James has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing in 2016. He is co-author of two books: WikiLeaks: News in the Networked Era and The Infographic History of the World.

Alan Gibbons (@mygibbo) is an award-winning, million-selling author. A winner of the Blue Peter Book Award and sixteen other awards, Alan has also twice been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Alan visits 150-180 schools a year in the UK and overseas and is a frequent speaker at conferences on literacy issues. Founder of the Campaign for the Book in 2008 and a member of the Speak up for Libraries coalition, Alan campaigns for proper funding for libraries. He initiated National Libraries Day which is now held annually. His most recent books include Forget Me Not and The Trap.  

Rebecca Omonira (@Rebecca_Omonira) is a reporter and writer. She is currently the writer in residence at Lacuna, an online magazine that challenges indifference to suffering and promotes human rights. She has been published in openDemocracy, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Washington Post and the New Internationalist. Rebecca's reporting on immigration and asylum across the European Union was shortlisted for the 2012 Orwell Prize for Political Writing and her reporting government policy on ordinary lives was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize 2015

Gavin Freeguard (@GavinFreeguard) is Head of Data and Transparency at the Institute for Government, and a trustee of the Orwell Youth Prize. He is former Deputy Director of the Orwell Prize, and former Political Advisor to Harriet Harman. 

The Orwell Youth Prize (@OrwellYouthPriz) is a registered charity which aims to inspire and support the next generation of politically engaged young writers. The OYP run workshops in schools, regional workshops, a writing prize and an annual Celebration Day. The writing prize for young people aged 13 – 18, is open now open for entries! 

Suggested Twitter hashtag for this event: #LSELitFest

This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2017, taking place from Monday 20 - Saturday 25 February 2017, with the theme “Revolutions”.

Update, Wednesday 8 February: Gavin Freeguard has replaced Jean Seaton as chair for this event due to unforeseen circumstances.


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