Write to Life

We’re the world's only long running creative writing group for survivors of torture. Our members meet each week to explore stories and ideas. If they choose to write about their experiences, we help them process thoughts and feelings in a safe environment.

Who we are

Write to Life has been working with survivors from around the world for more than 20 years.

We welcome writers at all levels of experience – or none. Some of our members were journalists whose writing was the reason they were tortured. Others haven’t done any creative writing since they were at school.

Write to Life created an environment where I could regain trust… I feel that I have regained my voice, that I’ve gained a space to recover my freedom here. It’s like finding a friend to whom I can tell whatever is inside me.

Write to Life group member

What we do

Our weekly workshops involve activities and exercises to help writers express their ideas and develop their voice. We write everything from the very practical, such as letters and CVs and letters, to poems and stories.

We also do special projects: a promenade performance at the Tate Gallery, a multimedia alphabet of poverty, a binaural soundscape about coming to London.

The workshops help us spread our creative wings as writers, find our voices in a new language and, when we’re ready, process painful thoughts or experiences from the past.

Writing also helps rebuild identity when torture has threatened to obliterate it. Reading what we have written, we rediscover who we are.

Every writer can also access one-on-one sessions with one of our volunteer mentors, who are professional writers from many backgrounds.

When I first came to Write to Life, I started by writing other people’s stories. A year later I found my voice to write about my own story, at first allegorically... A few months ago I first read at a public event - and felt safe doing so. I was empowered to speak not just for myself, but as a voice for my people.

Write to Life group member

Why it’s important

Being part of Write to Life helps people who have survived torture process their experiences and express their emotions in a safe space. It also supports us to recover our confidence and create connections with others.

Our writing has a powerful impact on the world around us, too. By sharing our work, we’ve shown that music, imagery, poetry and drama can open audiences up to difficult stories, giving them insights into the painful realities faced by those who have experienced torture.

We also contribute to reports, appeals and campaigns, communicating the human reality behind the issues.

Words give people the means to take charge of the stories of their lives. In writing it down, they decide what to share, what to hide. I am so moved by Write to Life  members using the power of words to make sense of the past and move forward with hope.

Tracy Chevalier, author and friend of Write to Life

Who we work with

Our writers work with museums, galleries, theatre companies and world class artists and performers. Past collaborators have included both Tate galleries, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, the Roundhouse, Jackson's Lane, ice&fire and Universal Music.

We also share our stories and perspectives with the public directly through media outlets such as Al Jazeera, Metro and the Huffington Post.

We publish a digital collection of our work everty three months, illustrated and co-edited by group members.

Coming soon...

We can write doors that open on to good places.

We can write lighting-up time into our faces.

We can write strength, in short and at length.

Letting it out, listening it in.

Going where grace is.

John Hegley, poet, friend and collaborator with Write to Life

Past projects

Souvenirs

A powerful theatre piece exploring the stories of survivors of torture, created in partnership with ice&fire and Tamasha.

Lost and Found

Six members of Write to Life share significant moments in their journeys from around the world to new lives in London.

An A to Z of Poverty

A video and booklet inspired by Freedom From Torture’s research into the misery faced by people trapped in the asylum system.

Words and Music

A film exploring the fascinating process of two young composers setting our work to music, and how we felt hearing it performed.
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