Open Call: Common Currency Writer in Residence

Delivered in partnership with Cúirt International Literature Festival, English PEN and Irish PEN/ PEN na hÉireann supported by the British Council.

Common Currency is a celebration of freedom of expression, creative campaigning, and the best literature the world has to offer to mark the centenary of the PEN movement organised by English PEN. It seeks to ignite a conversation around issues of freedom of expression, led by writers and readers.

Cúirt International Literature Festival, English PEN and Irish PEN/ PEN na hÉireann are working together in the spirit of the PEN charter that ‘literature knows no frontiers’ to provide an opportunity for a writer from the MENA region resident in Ireland to be the Common Currency Writer in Residence during the 2021 Cúirt International Literature Festival.

We welcome submissions from writers who are resident in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland who identify as a member of the diaspora from the Middle East and North Africa. For the purposes of this residency these countries include Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestinian Territories, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and UAE.

We welcome applications from writers whose first language is not English including Refugees and asylum seekers, although please note that your submission will be assessed in English.

This residency is made possible through the support of the British Council.

The deadline for submitting applications is 12 noon (GMT) Monday 22 February 2021.


The opportunity

  • A written creative commission to be performed as part of the festival Opening Night event (in person and online) on the theme of Human Connection.
  • An opportunity to perform work at two writers showcase events as part of the festival: 1) Culture Ireland showcase 2) Emerging Writers showcase
  • A festival pass for all events
  • Fees covered to attend a series of up to four writer and development talks.
  • A short personal essay commission reflecting on the experience of the festival and residency for publication post-festival on a partner website.
  • Travel, accommodation, access and subsistence costs will be covered on top of the above, COVID 19 restrictions allowing. If local restrictions prevent the residency happening in-person, we will provide reasonable assistance to support the writer to participate in the festival.

Residency Dates

  • 21 – 25 April 2021


  1. Must be an early to mid-career writer based in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland who identifies as a member of the diaspora from the Middle East and North Africa. For the purposes of this residency these countries include Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestinian Territories, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and UAE.
  2. Must submit the application in English. (By this we mean written English if you are submitting a written application or spoken English if submitting by video recording.)
  3. You may submit up to three poems or extracts from poems no longer than 50 lines or one prose piece no longer than 2000 words (excluding the title in both cases). Please indicate number of lines/words as appropriate and whether (and where) the piece has been previously published. Submissions may be in any language provided that they are accompanied by a translation into English (the author’s or the work of another writer). Collaborations with those writing in other languages very welcome.


Applications will be assessed against the three essential criteria outlined above and the question below. They will be reviewed by a selection panel, including representatives from Cúirt Festival, English PEN and Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann .

  1. Why you want to participate in this residency and including why you will benefit from it.

If you have any questions, please email . We look forward to receiving your applications.

We are committed to ensuring that the residency is fully accessible, and we encourage disabled and/or D/deaf writers to apply. Access provision and costs will be met in addition to fees.

Note: We welcome and encourage applications from candidates who use access workers to support their application, such as sign language interpreters, PA support, communication support workers etc. Please submit the format of application which is most accessible to you using your support workers as necessary, to ensure we receive it in proficient written or spoken English.

There is a section in the application where you have the opportunity to let us know about the kind of access support you may require during the residency: this could include a translator to ensure smooth communication in English with the residency host organisation. It is important that you complete this section in order to provide us with the information we need to support you with access, should this be required.




Cúirt International Literature Festival

Cúirt International Festival of Literature is one of Ireland’s oldest and most well-loved book festivals.

Founded in Galway in 1985, the festival has grown from a festival of poetry to a celebration of the written word that includes visual arts, music and theatre in its programme. Cúirt brings together the best in Irish and international contemporary writing, supporting local writers, giving an international platform to Irish writing and creating unique literary experiences for our audiences.

British Council

The British Council was founded in 1934 and is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with more than 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, the English language, education and civil society. Last year, we reached more than 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall, including online, through broadcasts and publications.

Arts is a cornerstone of the British Council’s mission to create a friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the wider world. We find new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through the arts, to develop stronger creative sectors around the world that are better connected with the UK.

English PEN

English PEN is one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, championing the freedom to write and the freedom to read around the world. We are the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries.

With the support of our members – a community of writers, readers and activists – we protect freedom of expression whenever it is under attack. We campaign for writers facing persecution around the world and offer respite residencies for 3-5 writers per year.

We celebrate contemporary international writing through our online magazine, PEN Transmissions, and we award literary grants for translating new works into English.

We bring together outstanding writers, readers and translators for unforgettable conversations and we celebrate courageous writing with three annual literary prizes – the PEN Pinter Prize, the PEN Ackerley Prize and the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize.

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann

The aims of Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann are: to promote literature in and about Ireland both nationally and internationally; to defend worldwide the right of writers to responsible freedom of expression as defined in the PEN Charter; and to foster international understanding through the appreciation of literature.

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