Nominations open for UK's "biggest ever poetry festival"

The Southbank Centre has opened nominations for "the largest poetry festival ever staged in the UK", the Poetry Parnassus, which will form part of next year's Cultural Olympiad.

The festival will see 205 poets, one from each Olympic nation, coming to the Southbank Centre and then on a tour of the UK from 26th June to 2nd July 2012. Led by Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly and Southbank Centre artist in residence Simon Armitage, the project will feature readings, workshops and a final gala event with all the poets.

The public can nominate their three favourite poets from any Olympic country, ranking them in order of Gold, Silver and Bronze, from now until 22nd July 2011. Armitage and a panel will then shortlist and make the final selection of poets in spring 2012. The event is partly sponsored by the Arts Council, with other partners including the British Council and The Reading Agency.

Patrons of the event include Carol Ann Duffy, Sir Andrew Motion, Melvyn Bragg, Michael Billington, Mark Lawson, Seamus Heaney, Joan Bakewell and Antony Gormley.

Kelly, who is also chair of the World Book Night board of trustees, said: "Poetry Parnassus will be a landmark event in the Cultural Olympiad–a week-long gathering of poets, for poetry's sake, to celebrate language, diversity and a sense of global togetherness."

Armitage said: "My hunch is that this will be the biggest poetry event ever—a truly global coming together of poets and a monumental poetic happening worthy of the spirit and history of the Olympics themselves."