An end-of-year message to the members of Scottish PEN, written by Ricky Monahan Brown.December 16, 2021
This message was first shared with members of Scottish PEN via email. To donate to Scottish PEN or to join us in membership in 2022, please visit our ‘Join Us‘ page.
Hello! The Trustees at Scottish PEN have been continuing to talk recently about how best to ensure that we keep open our lines of communication with the membership, and at this time of year I’d like to reach out to – first of all – offer you our best wishes for the holiday season.
2021 has been a hard year for so many people in so many ways, and as a reader or writer member of Scottish PEN, I hope that you have been able to find some solace or comfort or pleasure in poetry, plays, novels, essays, books or journalism.
Of course, as members of Scottish PEN and adherents to the PEN Charter, our aims during the year now ending have included endeavouring to oppose the suppression of freedom of expression in the community to which we belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible. As such, our work during any year must include spending time with matters that are uncomfortable and unpleasant. At the same time, we pledge ourselves to do our utmost to dispel hatred and champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world. Our collective efforts in support of this goal by promoting the unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations through reading and writing might be said to be its own reward.
For a full account of the work of Scottish PEN during the past year, I commend to you the report of our outgoing President, Carl MacDougall, to our AGM. In December – or in Gaelic, an Dùbhlachd, coming from the black or the darkness – of an often dark year, I’d like to take a minute to focus on a couple of positive moments. As members of Scottish PEN, we can collectively be proud of the success of our Defamation Reform Campaign and the passing of the Defamation and Malicious Publications (Scotland) Act in April of this year. Our work to reform this area of the law began in 2014 and our efforts over the years have ensured that the right to free expression is better protected in Scots law. You can learn more about what this reform means for writers, editors and publishers on our website. More recently, I think that we can also be proud that new Trustees have emerged from the membership in Ruth Aylett, Lizzie Eldridge and Leela Soma, who are already bringing new energy to our work.
On a personal level, I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for granting me the opportunity to offer service to Scottish PEN in the role of President. I would also like to thank Carl for the unstinting work he has done in the role with the sterling support of our Project Manager, Lisa Clark. I know that the Board hopes to continue to further the goals set forth by the PEN Charter during the coming year, and I know that we all appreciate our members joining Scottish PEN and maintaining their membership in support of those goals.
For all the troubles in the world, as we move towards the winter solstice and begin to think about emerging from the darkness, I find myself comforted by my own reading. I am reminded of the words of Albert Camus as he leaves Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain at the end of his Myth Of Sisyphus –
The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I wish for you all happy holidays and winter festivals. Thank you for supporting and being part of the work of Scottish PEN, and I look forward to updating you about our ongoing work during the new year.
With very best wishes,