This is the first of what will hopefully be many posts from Nicky and me about what it means to be translator in residence at London’s Free Word Centre. Hang on – translator in residence? Artists in residence, yes. Everyone’s heard of them. There’s Conrad Shawcross at the Science Museum, and Neville Gabie is documenting the transformation of the east London Olympics site over the course of sixteen months. Writers in residence? Yes, sure. Tony Parsons recently spent seven days at Heathrow Airport looking for material for a short story collection, and Alain de Botton was there before him (there’s an interesting BBC article about some of these residencies here).

But translators? Aren’t we meant to stay in the shadows, hide behind our authors/publishers, not get in the way? 

Well, not any more! In our time here at Free Word, Nicky and I hope to de-mystify translation, get people talking about words, books and language in new and unexpected ways, and to generally put translation (and translators) on the map. We also want to spread the word about our lovely hosts the Free Word Centre, which is a really great place for all things literary and bookish – please check it out!

Mine and Nicky’s residencies are a new and rather exciting initiative by Free Word and the Translators Association, which came out of the Global Translation Initiative and is funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. We’re going to be here for three months, and will be offering an autumn programme of translation-inspired events ranging from Chinese spice tasting, German accordion squeezing, Spanish YouTubing and speed book clubbing.

There’s a talk on the pitfalls of diplomatic translation, one on how we might better publish poetry in translation, several workshops and activities in schools, and a translation game in an East End market – check the Free Word website for more details, as well as following us on Twitter (@FreeWordCentre). And wish us luck!