The Right to Write? A conversation on writing and rights in Scotland today

Just Festival and Scottish PEN host a conversation with writers Leela Soma and David Manderson to mark Human Rights Day 2020. Exploring human rights issues impacting writers internationally, and linking them with the barriers facing writers in Scotland today, this free online event will interrogate whether Scotland truly offers freedom of expression for writers, and ask important questions about the future of Scottish literature. Whose voices do we hear from most, and whose perspective is often silenced? How do societal issues impact on writers, and what responsibility do writers have in challenging the status quo and highlighting injustice?

Chair – Lisa Clark, Scottish PEN
Moderated – Helen Trew, Just Platform


  • Leela Soma
  • David Manderson

Event Timetable

7.00pm Welcome and housekeeping, Helen Trew
7.05pm Introduction, Lisa Clark
7.10pm Opening contribution from Dave
7.15pm Opening contribution from Leela
7.20pm Linking the themes/issues with the experience of writers in Scotland
7.30pm Discussion about societal issues which have a knock-on effect on writers
7.40pm The role of writers in highlighting injustice in their work
7.50pm Where are we now and what does the future for writing in Scotland look like?
7.55pm Event close and opportunity to share ‘call to action’
Just Platform is a community service provided by Just Festival to allow discussion and debate to continue during the period of Covid-19 Lockdown Restrictions. All Just Platform events are organised by third party groups, organisations or individuals. As a forum for debate some of the topics under discussion may prove to be thought provoking, difficult and/or controversial. As such the views and opinions expressed by individual event organisers, the event participants or by members of the public either participating in and/or commenting either during or after the event may not be views shared Just Festival, its staff or its supporters.

Scottish PEN

For over 80 years Scottish PEN has been committed to fostering a dynamic literary culture in Scotland, vital for the nation to play its part on the international stage. Over the years PEN has evolved into a dynamic global organisation committed to campaigning for writers under threat and supporting cross-cultural exchange.

Leela Soma

Leela Soma is a writer and active member of Scottish PEN. Her latest crime novel, Murder at the Mela, explores tensions within Glasgow’s Asian communities and between diverse groups in the city.

Her poetry and short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and publications and she won the Margaret Thompson Davis Trophy, for the first 10,000 words of her first novel Twice Born.  Leela has been encouraged in her writing by none other than Willy Maley, Professor of Renaissance Studies (English Literature), University of Glasgow, who commended her in his book Discovering Scottish Literature, published by Scottish Book Trust. Thereafter, he urged her to: ‘finish the novel.’  She did, and won Strathkelvin Writes Best New Writers Trophy.

Twice Born was followed by Bombay Baby, published by Dahlia Publishing. – another book reflecting Scottish – Indian connections. Bombay Baby was reviewed in Scotland on Sunday by prize winning author, Suhayl Saadi, who recommended the book as: ‘an engaging, upbeat piece of popular fiction.’

David Manderson

David Manderson is a writer and former academic.  He is currently chair of the Writers for Peace committee. He has published short stories, essays and poems in a wide variety of small magazines and anthologies. His novel Lost Bodies (Kennedy & Boyd) was published in 2011. He ran the Real to Reel Short Film Festival at the Glasgow Film Theatre in Glasgow until 1999 and Nerve Magazine until 2001. Later, a creative practice PhD took him into academia where he published articles and textbooks on Scottish films, creative writing and walking, and Scottish Miserablism. His poem Expedition, animated by Samantha Hendry, won a Royal Television Student Award in 2019. In 2017 he was the recipient of a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship from the Scottish Book Trust. He is currently completing a book on the work and life of Alan Sharp for Peter Lang publishers