Speaking Volumes Live Literature Productions is made up of Sharmilla Beezmohun, Sarah Sanders and Nick Chapman.
First meeting at International PEN in 2008, Sarah and Sharmilla ran the annual Free the Word! Festivals in the UK and curated events around the globe. Later, Nick joined the team to assist with the 2010 festival. It was after that success that Sarah and Sharmilla took a huge leap of faith to set up Speaking Volumes in 2010, with Nick coming on board two years later. Our name was the genius inspiration of one our favourite writers from our time at PEN, the brilliant author and actress Pauline Melville.
Just two years later, in 2012, we secured our first major grant to run the UK poetry tour of Poetry Parnassus, part of London’s Cultural Olympiad. The Southbank Centre hosted one poet from every Olympic country in the capital, programming a week of varied events; we then organised a nationwide poetry tour over the next two weeks, working with over 50 poets at 30 events. From Belfast to Cambridge, from Edinburgh to Devon, we travelled the length and breadth of the country with groups of poets, who took part in festival readings, library workshops, discussions on Shakespeare, poetry slams … and everything in between. It was our baptism of fire but, exhausted whilst we watched the London Olympics afterwards, it made us realise this was the scale and scope of Speaking Volumes’ ambitions — which we could achieve, with a lot of hard work, imagination and passion. And it’s been that way ever since.
Sharmilla Beezmohun has worked in publishing since 1994, including at Wasafiri magazine. In 2010 her first novel, Echoes of a Green Land, was published in translation in Spain as Ecos de la tierra verde. She edited Continental Shifts, Shifts in Perception: Black Cultures and Identities in Europe (2016) and, with Sarah White and Roxy Harris, co-edited A Meeting of the Continents: The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (2005). Sharmilla is a Trustee of the George Padmore Institute, an archive housing unique collections from pioneering Black British political and cultural organisations of the last 70 years.
Sarah Sanders has worked in Literature for 16 years. She is currently working two days a week in the Arts Council London Literature Department, specializing in Live Literature. She has worked at the National Theatre, the BBC and with a number of mainstream and diverse publishers as well as producing several live literature tours in the UK and US.
Nick Chapman following PEN, has worked in the British Council’s literature team and with visual arts organisation Artangel, whilst simultaneously delivering various projects including the 2016 & ’17 International Day Conferences. He is currently Events & Workshops Manager with Poetry Translation Centre alongside his Speaking Volumes projects. Nick’s current interests are in combining technology and different artistic elements to enrich literary presentations.