ICORN is led by the ICORN Board of representatives from the ICORN member cities. The ICORN Secretariat is responsible for the daily running of the organisation.
ICORN is led by a board that is elected by the General Assembly and heads ICORN between the biannual assemblies. The ICORN Board is elected by the member cities and consists of representatives from 6 member cities from different nations across the network, representing and advocating the views of ICORN. Representatives from Internatinonal PEN, Sølvberget Cultural Centre and an ICORN guest writer representative may attend ICORN board meetings with the right to speak and suggest agenda items.
ICORN Chair of Board
Norwich City of Refuge
The National Centre for Writing (previously Writer's Centre Norwich) was one of the founding members of ICORN (the International Cities of Refuge Network) and Chris has been an active participant in the network since the start; he was a member of the original advisory Board, he served as board member of the ICORN Board of Directors for two full terms, and was elected Chair of the ICORN Board at the 2016 ICORN General Assembly in Paris. Norwich was one of the six cities who took part in the five year EU funded Shahrazad project.
Chris Gribble is the Chief Executive of the National Centre for Writing (www.nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk) based in Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. After completing a PhD in German Poetry and Philosophy at the University of Manchester, Chris worked in publishing, then the cultural sector and was the Director of Manchester Poetry Festival and then Manchester Literature Festival. As well as being Chair of ICORN, he sits on the Boards of Carcanet Press and Modern Poetry in Translation and the New Anglia LEP Culture Board. He is a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)
ICORN Vice Chair
Uppsala City of Refuge
Annika is a cultural strategist at the Municipality of Uppsala and works primarily with the preparation of literature and public education issues within the municipality. In 2008, Strömberg drafted the proposal for Uppsala to become an ICORN city of refuge and has since been the coordinator of the city. Annika has been part of the ICORN international board since 2012.
Educated as a cultural worker at the Uppsala University, she was a trained librarian in Borås in 1992. She then worked at the Tidningen Göteborgs Posten’s photo and text-archive, was a librarian at Falkenberg Municipality ant the Sigtuna Foundation Library. During the years 1997-2003, Annika worked as a librarian on the book-bus in Uppsala. She co-founded the literary "Stig Dagermansgatan Society" and have held political positions of trust in the municipality of Uppsala and Uppsala County Council.
Ralph Henry Reese
ICORN Board Member
Pittsburgh City of Refuge
Co-founder and President of City of Asylum Pittsburgh and Publisher of Sampsonia Way magazine, Henry Reese is former principal in Reese Brothers and Communications & Commerce. He is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and SUNY Buffalo. He received Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s Citizen Service Award, a 2011 Purpose Prize Fellow and has honorary degrees from Seton Hill University and Chatham University.
Reese was elected Member of the ICORN Board at the 2016 General Assembly in Paris.
ICORN Board Member
Amsterdam City of Refuge
Sabine Gimbrère was educated as an international lawyer at the University of Amsterdam and the European University Institute in Florence. She worked in human rights law at the University of Amsterdam before joining the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the late eighties working as a policy lawyer in the European and international cultural field. In that capacity she dealt with such issues as the EU Cultural program and Second World War looted art. For four years she was the deputy head of the Dutch delegation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
In 2007 she accepted a job as senior adviser international affairs at the Department for Social Development of the City of Amsterdam. Her international work covered arts and culture, education, sports, youth and diversity in countries like Morocco, Turkey, China and Brazil.
As of 1 June 2014 she is the Director of the International Office of the City of Amsterdam. In that capacity she is the main adviser of the mayor of Amsterdam and the City government on international policy and international affairs. Sabine Gimbrère is an adviser to the Dutch National UNESCO Commission.
Gimbrere was elected Member of the ICORN Board at the 2018 General Assembly in Malmö.
ICORN Board Member
Harstad City of Refuge
Henry Andersen is Head of Municipal Affairs in Harstad Municipality in the north of Norway, and the coordinator of Harstad City of Refuge. Harstad has established a collective system for working with hosting persecuted artists, where Troms County and other cultural units work closely together as a team.
After completing his education in pedagogy, music and history, Henry has held various management positions. Since 2002, Andersen has been a member of the management team at the Municipality of Harstad. He has since had the overall responsibility for the management of the cultural field as well as schools, nursery schools and child welfare, which also includes receiving refugees.
Henry took the administrative responsibility for organizing Harstad to become the world's first city of refuge for musicians. In cooperation with the organisations SafeMUSE, FREEMUSE and not least the ICORN, he became a spokesman for the inclusion of musicians in the ICORN system. In 2014, Harstad received the first musician through the ICORN programme.
Andersen was elected Member of the ICORN Board at the 2018 General Assembly in Malmö.
ICORN Board Member
Krakow City of Refuge
Piaskowski was elected Member of the ICORN Board at the 2020 online General Assembly.
Helge Lunde (1961) was the director of Kapittel, Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech from 1998-2005. During the same period he was responsible for Stavanger as City of Refuge for persecuted writers, and worked together with Norwegian PEN to develop the network throughout Norway and beyond.
Lunde was among the main figures behind establishing ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network in 2005 when the original network International Parliament of Writers was dissolved. He became its first executive director, a position he has been holding since.
Mob: +47 995 82 488
Phone: +47 51 50 71 25
Elisabeth came from a position at the newsroom department at Dagbladet when she took up the position as Programme Director of ICORN in 2007. Since then she has been working on bringing persecuted writers from all over the world into safe havens, giving them a new voice and platforms to express themselves freely.
With a background in Peace and Conflict Transformation studies, Elisabeth started working for the Secretariat of Freedom of Expression at the Stavanger Cultural Center in 1994. She worked with the City of Refuge Programme from its very beginning in 1995, when Stavanger became a city of refuge.
Elisabeth is particularly engaged in migration and visa matters. As ICORNs representative to the European Commission working group, Arts-Rights-Justice, she is also strongly involved in artists’ rights and freedom of expression.
Phone: +47 51 50 79 17
Marianne Wulfsberg Hovdan
Marianne Wulfsberg Hovdan is the Protection Manager at ICORN, where she handles all applications for residencies from persecuted writers and artists. She works with both applicants, researchers, the ICORN member cities and other organisations while looking for a safety for approved candidates.
Marianne has a human rights background from Amnesty International Norway where she served as a Regional Manager. Marianne has also worked as a freelance writer and as the city of refuge coordinator in Stavanger for three years before joined the ICORN Secretariat staff in 2010.
Marianne holds an MA in sociology in addition to a BA in psychology. Her MA thesis focused on women, migration and workers’ rights and her research led to legislative changes in Norway.
Phone: +47 51 50 79 40
Cathrine Helland is Communication Manager at ICORN, a position held since 2013. She holds an MSc in Communication and Arts History/Museology from Copenhagen and Roskilde University, and has previously worked in the arts and educational sector, in institutions such as the National Gallery of Denmark and the IT University of Copenhagen.
Cathrine is responsible for the overall communication of the organisation as well as managing the annual international ICORN gatherings (General Assembly and Network Meetings) and various cooperation projects for promotion.
Phone: +47 51 50 78 75
Vidar Ekehaug started working with ICORN September 2019 as Protection Officer. He assists in processing the increasing amount of requests and applications for ICORN's relocation and residency programme for writers and artists at risk.
Ekehaug comes from a position at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, where he worked in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Malawi as well as at the headquarters in Geneva. He has particularly been involved in the work to research and analyse the human rights situation in countries from which people are fleeing. Prior to that, Ekehaug worked with children and young people’s rights at UNICEF and the Global Youth Action Network in New York. Vidar holds a Master of Business Administration from Dowling College in New York.
e-mail: vek (at) icorn.org
Aleksander Haarr Thorsen
Aleksander Haarr Thorsen (1988) will join the ICORN Secretariat in May 2021 as Finance Manager.
Aleksander holds a degree in business & administration, with specialization in Project Management. After completing his studies, he actively participated in the start-up of a new and innovative company. This process has given him broad knowledge within areas such as finance, accounting, HR and marketing. Aleksander has experience from working with business development, Finance and Administration Management.
In addition to financial control and reporting at ICORN, Aleksander works with funding and is involved with further development of the governing documents.