Translator in residence programme at the Free Word Centre, London

By Nicky Harman, published

Applicants must be practising literary translators.

FWC are looking for one translator in residence who is working from Turkish, as Turkey will be the country focus for the London Book Fair in April 2013. The second translator will be working from another language that is widely spoken in the local community, i.e. the local boroughs of Islington, Hackney, City and Tower Hamlets. These include: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese.

The role of translator in residence will be both challenging and rewarding. Therefore, FWC are looking for a professional, practising translator, with an aptitude for working in community settings and a proactive, collaborative approach that will engage a wide range of participants and audiences.

Crossing Cultures: Translating Tales Translator in residence programme at the Free Word Centre, London
September 2012 – May 2013

Free Word – a global meeting place for literature, argument and free thinking.

Established in 2008, Free Word is an international centre for innovation and collaboration, pushing boundaries to promote, protect and democratise the power of the written and spoken world for creative and free expression.

Free Word is home to eight resident organisations and over 25 associates working across literature, literacy and free expression. There are currently eight resident organisations at the centre, including Apples & Snakes; Arvon Foundation; ARTICLE 19; Booktrust; English PEN; Index on Censorship; The Literary Consultancy; The Reading Agency.

Working closely with its resident organisations and associates, Free Word develops, hosts and runs an extensive programme of discussions, lectures, films, exhibitions and performances in its 90 seater lecture theatre and event space, on its website as well as at venues and festivals nationally and internationally.

Encouraging debate across the worlds of culture and politics, these events give a platform to often unheard voices, opening up new perspectives and challenging official narratives.

Translator in Residence Programme

Now in its second year, the Translator in Residence Programme, ‘Crossing Cultures; Translating Tales’, was established in association with the Translators Association with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The Translators in Residence (TIR) Programme forms part of Free Word’s commitment to Translation, which is delivered through the partnership work we launched in 2010 with the Global Translation Initiative and also includes International Translation Day in the Autumn and the Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair each Spring.

TIR 2012/13 will build on the work of the TIR 2011/12 that forged a new approach to translation, going beyond the academic to stage playful and interactive activities that made people think about translation in new ways. Aimed at popularising and demystifying translation, the 2011/12 programme combined poetry, games, the environment, food and music and highlighted how translation enriches and is part of our everyday lives.

With thanks once again to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, we are delighted to offer two four-month residencies at Free Word spanning September 2012 through to May 2013.

There is some flexibility in the timing of the two residencies and how the successful candidates’ time is allocated across the September – May period. We would expect at least one of the residencies to have started by the end of September. We will consider the residencies happening concurrently, or with some overlap. We also recognize that some of the activities planned may extend beyond the designated residency period.

A fee of £5000 is available for each individual residency, together with a small budget to realise projects.

Project Objectives

Translators will be responsible for researching ideas and developing innovative projects which will be realised with the support of Free Word, and where appropriate working with Free Word Founder Members and Associates, including The British Centre for Literary Translation, English PEN, the Reading Agency and Arvon.

Part of the programme of events should also include developing a project with the local community; this might include working with local schools, colleges, businesses or community groups.

Applications: Please send a CV and covering letter outlining why you want to be translator in residence at the Free Word Centre. Please include an outline of some initial ideas on how you would fulfil the project objectives and send to by 11 June at 10am.

Interviews will be held at the Free Word Centre on 20 June.

Please note this is an application for both residencies falling within the September 2012 – May 2013 period – applicants can give a preference for the four-month period they would like their residency to cover.


# 1.   

Nicky Harman (Chinese) and Rosalind Harvey (Spanish) were the translators in residence last year. They did such a good job that the Calouste-Gulbenkian want to do it again! It would be great to have another Chinese translator - please apply!

Helen Wang, May 22, 2012, 8:49p.m.

# 2.   

To me residency sounds like somewhere to translate. Nicky, how much time did you dedicate to interactions with local communities? Is it more of a "hands-on" experience? (Sorry for my complete black hole in understanding when it comes to residencies, but since this is in my home town, I have to ask!)

Alice, May 23, 2012, 6:25a.m.

# 3.   

perfectly reasonable questions Alice - before I applied I did a bit of research and couldn't find any outward-looking residencies like this one for translators. So it was quite an unusual experience. "interactions with local communities" are hard to get going but rewarding when you succeed. We each did as much as we could - laid the groundwork, you might say. It will be easier for the next two. Anyway, in my book, London is one big community, and people came to our events from all over London. Yes, it was absolutely hands-on, in the sense that we spent the whole time organising events. Any translation of my own took place at home in any free moments!

Nicky Harman, May 23, 2012, 7:23p.m.

# 4.   

Wow, that sounds fascinating. I think I saw quite a few of the events you'd organised at the Free Word Centre. Thanks for sharing!

Alice, May 24, 2012, 11:06a.m.

# 5.   

Hi guys! I'm a professional literary translator from Vietnam. Among my translated works you can find famous books by some of the world's renowned authors, like "If on a winter night a traveller" by Italo Calvino, "Never let me go" by Kazuo Ishiguro, "The dictionary of the Khazars" by Milorad Pavic, and "2666" by Roberto Bolano. It's a pity I came to this too late, but I'm eager to know whether there will be in the future other, similar programmes at your institution that involve Vietnamese language, where people like me may try an excellent chance to work in such an highly international, professional and creative environment. Thanks for your attention!

Tran Tien Cao Dang, November 22, 2012, 10:03a.m.


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