Poetry Parnassus


Poetry Parnassus was the largest gathering of international poets in world history. 140 poets, spoken word artists, praise singers, rappers and storytellers performed their work in more than 50 languages over a packed week of events from 26th June to 1st July 2012, in celebration of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Poets representing all 204 nations eligible to compete in the games contributed a poem to The World Record anthology published by Bloodaxe Books and the festival was launched by a spectacular Rain of Poems from a helicopter over Jubilee Gardens. Across the week, it was estimated that 20,000 audiences experienced Parnassus at venues in and around the Southbank Centre (above).

In partnership with SBC, Speaking Volumes was asked to tour a selection of poets around the UK in the weeks after the festival, offering venues the opportunity to be part of these once-in-a-lifetime celebrations by hosting an event with international poets. Poetry Parnassus on Tour was designed to build on the spirit of inclusivity presented by the Olympics, ensuring that readers and audiences across the UK were offered a unique event with international poets reading and discussing their work at a local venue. Southbank Centre’s Jude Kelly stated:

Poetry Parnassus will be a landmark event in the Cultural Olympiad – a gathering of poets in the UK to celebrate language, diversity and a sense of global togetherness. By bringing poets to London and then enabling them to tour throughout England, we bring the subjects of free speech, community and peace through poetry to wider and more diverse audiences. The tour will strengthen a growing network of venues and organisations presenting international literature.

The tour comprised of 31 events over a 3 week period, involving 44 international poets, 7 translators, 3 additional Chairs and 10 additional UK poets. We visited 6 libraries with our partner The Reading Agency and organised 5 workshop/performances in the Colnbrook Immigration Centre with English PEN.


25-29 June 2012

Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre with English PEN

Poetry Parnassus in Libraries with The Reading Agency

01 July 2012

Ace Stories, Brighton

03 July 2012

Africa Utopia, London

04 July 2012

Wasafiri & Open University, Cambridge

05 July 2012

Wenlock Poetry Festival, Much Wenlock

05 July 2012

Stratford Poetry Festival, Stratford upon Avon

05 & 06 July 2012

Scottish Poetry Library, Glasgow & Edinburgh

05 & 06 July 2012

Verbal Arts Centre, Derry-Londonderry

06 July 2012

Park Street Poetry, Bristol

07 July 2012

Ledbury Poetry Festival, Ledbury with Paul Dekayo (Cameroon), Tishani Doshi (India), Raul Henao (Colombia), Kim Hyesoon (South Korea), Doina Ioanid (Romania), Jang Jin Seong (North Korea), Reza Mohammadi (Afghanistan),  Ribka Sibhatu (Eritrea)

08 July 2012

Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, Hebden Bridge

09 July 2012

Arabic Arts Festival, Liverpool with Zahir Al-Ghafri (Oman)

10 July 2012

Contacting the World, Manchester

11 July 2012

Way With Words, Dartington

12 July 2012

Assembly Rooms, Ludlow with Agnes Agboton (Benin), Zahir Al-Ghafri (Oman), Jang Jin Seong (North Korea), Reza Mohammadi (Afghanistan), John Hegley (UK)

14 July 2012

Arabic Arts Festival, Liverpool with Khaled Mattawa (Libya)