Chair and Founder: Bernardine Evaristo
British-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of seven books of fiction and verse fiction including Mr Loverman, Lara, The Emperor’s Babe and Blonde Roots. She is a literary critic and an editor of anthologies and special magazine issues including Poetry Review in its centenary year. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. She has judged and chaired many leading literary awards and in 2012 was Chair of both the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and The Caine Prize for African Fiction. She has won several awards and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006 and a Fellow of the English Association in 2017. She was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2009.
As a long time advocate for writers of colour, she initiated the Arts Council Free Verse report (2006) and The Complete Works mentoring scheme (2007-2017, led by Dr. Nathalie Teitler) to address the underrepresentation of Black and Asian poets in British poetry presses. Most of the former mentees are publishing full-length poetry collections with leading poetry publishers and have won or been nominated for many awards, including winning the prestigious Forward Prize for best first collection (Mona Arshi) and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and T.S. Eliot Prize (Sarah Howe). The Complete Works alum and first BIAPP winner, Warsan Shire, collaborated with Beyonce on her latest album, Lemonade (2016), which features many of Warsan’s poems. https://thecompleteworkspoetry.com/
In the 1980s Bernardine co-counded Britain’s first black women’s theatre company, Theatre of Black Women. In 1995 she co-founded Spread the Word, London’s premier writer development organisaion.
Malika Booker is a British Caribbean writer whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and rooted in storytelling. Her writing spans poetry, theatre, performance monologues, installations, and education. Her clients have included Arts Council England, the BBC, the British Council, the Wellcome Trust, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Arvon Foundation and Hampton Court Palace. She tours the world as a writer.
Malika’s publications include Breadfruit (flipped eye, 2007) and Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press, 2013). Pepper Seed was shortlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry and the Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize. In 2016 she was chair of the Forward Prizes for poetry judging panel and in 2017 she was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She is currently the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at Leeds University. Malika’s plays include Catwalk, commissioned by NITRO (Tricycle Theatre, 2001) and Unplanned (Battersea Arts Centre, 2007). She worked with young people for the Inner-London Teenager Poetry Slam in 2003 and 2004, which resulted in two collections of their writing, Where I’m From, Where I’m Going, and The Way We See It, The Way It Is. Malika also founded ‘Malika’s Kitchen’, a writers’ collective based in London and Chicago. http://malikabooker.com/
Ghanaian-Jamaican writer Kwame Dawes is the award-winning author of over twenty books of poetry and numerous books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and drama. His most recent collection is City of Bones: A Testament (2017).He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a faculty member of the Pacific MFA program in Oregon. His many awards include the Forward Prize, a Pushcast Prize, an Emmy for his reporting on HIV AIDS in Jamaica, the Barnes and Nobles Writers for Writers Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is Associate Poetry Editor of Peepal Tree Press and co-founder and Program Director of Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica. His collection Duppy Conqueror, New and Selected Poems was published by Copper Canyon in 2013. http://www.kwamedawes.com/
In 2012 Kwame founded the African Poetry Book Foundation which incorporates the new Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and a host of other literary projects. Kwame works with Bernardine Evaristo on judging of each other’s prizes and locating the brightest new voices in African poetry. http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu/
Diana Evans is a British author and critic of Nigerian and English descent. Her bestselling novel, 26a, won the inaugural Orange Award for New Writers and the British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year prize. It was also shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel, the Guardian First Book, the Commonwealth Best First Book and the Times/Southbank Show Breakthrough awards, and longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her second novel, The Wonder, is currently under option for television dramatisation. She is a former dancer, and as a journalist and critic has contributed to Marie Claire, the Independent, Dance Theatre Journal, the Guardian, the Observer, the Times, the Telegraph, the Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar, the Voice, the Stage and Time Out. Ordinary People is her third novel, and received an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts Award. She lives in London.
Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet and visual artist who grew up in Ethiopia & Eritrea. Her work has been published in various literary magazines, including Poets.org, Callaloo, The 2River View, Luna Luna Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Numero Cinq, The Missing Slate, and elsewhere. She won the Sillerman Prize for African Poets and her full-length collection, Fuschia, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. Her poetry chapbook, Behind Walls and Glass was published by Finishing Line Press. Her most recent work is forthcoming at Barrow Street Journal, Chaos Hermeneutics Journal, At Length, World Literature Today, Prairie Schooner, and more. Her poems have been included in the anthologies Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press, 2016) and Voices from Leimert Park (Harriet Tubman Imprint, 2017). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.