Poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books has appointed a new board for the first time in nearly 40 years. The overhaul coincides with the launch by the press and Newcastle University of the inaugural James Berry Poetry Prize for emerging Black and minority ethnic poets, devised with Bernardine Evaristo.
The new prize is open until 1st June, and offers both mentoring and book publication, with three winners benefiting every two years. It is supported by an Arts Council grant awarded to the university. The prize is free to enter and is open to poets who have not published a book-length collection, with special consideration given to LGBTQ+ or disabled poets and those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
Devised by Booker Prize winner Evaristo with inclusivity specialist Dr Nathalie Teitler, it is named in honour of James Berry, one of the first Black writers in Britain to receive wider recognition after winning the National Poetry Competition in 1981.
In changes to the board, Professor Linda Anderson (pictured), founder of Newcastle University’s Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, has been made the new chair, while Christine Macgregor and Bethan Jones have been promoted to publicity director and sales director respectively, having managed those areas since 1998 and 2005.
Two poets also feature on the new board, including Professor W N Herbert of Newcastle University, formerly Makar of Dundee — a role similar to a Scottish poet laureate — and Imtiaz Dharker, awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for 2014, who was appointed Chancellor of Newcastle University in 2019. Founder editor Neil Astley (also pictured) remains m.d, while lawyer and philanthropist Sir William Morrison-Bell is company secretary. Inclusivity specialist Dr Nathalie Teitler, director of the Complete Work mentoring scheme, completes the line-up.
“The creation of this new board has been long overdue,” said Astley. “We have needed a strong and diverse board to fully develop our areas of specialisation, with a particular focus on broadening the readership of poetry. Our plans to move forward have been recognised with the announcement last week by Arts Council England that Bloodaxe has been awarded a £40,000 grant from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.
"Between them, Christine Macgregor and Bethan Jones have been with Bloodaxe for 40 years, and much of our previous success has been down to their contributions, so it’s only right that they should be fully and formally in charge of what they’ve been managing so brilliantly for so long.”
The make-up of the board also reflects Bloodaxe’s continuing partnership with Newcastle University, which holds the Bloodaxe Archive, and has hosted the Newcastle-Bloodaxe Poetry Lectures.