Out-Spoken Press, Spread the Word and New Writing North Announce Winners of Emerging Poets Development Scheme


Out-Spoken Press, Spread the Word and New Writing North announce the four emerging poets —Courtney Conrad, Emily Abdeni-Holman, Alex Mepham and Jane Thomas — selected as mentees for the second, expanded year of their mentorship and development programme offering targeted, integrated support, craft and professional development resources over the course of a year aiming to ready them for publication.

Expanding on a pilot launched in 2022, the programme is targeted at emerging writers, with no upper age limit, and offers four mentorship places: two, to writers based in the North of England, selected in conjunction with the Northern Writers’ Awards by Caroline Bird and RSL Ondaatje prize-winning poet Anthony Anaxagorou; and two, from the rest of the UK, selected by Lucy Mercer and Anaxagorou.

The four mentees will be offered a broad range of support including monthly one-to-one craft mentoring sessions, a bursary for attending live poetry events, craft workshops, and sessions on professional development and navigating the industry, aimed at readying work for publication and creating a meaningful practical opportunity to open up access to what to many still feels like a ‘closed shop’ sector.

Spread the Word Director Ruth Harrison says: “Sustained and targeted development is essential for poets to progress their work and creative careers. The Emerging Poets Development Scheme responds to this need, and we are delighted to be supporting this year’s cohort of poets”

Out-Spoken editor Anthony Anaxagorou says “I’m incredibly excited to be welcoming Courtney, Emily, Jane and Alex whose poems struck me from the first read. I’m looking forward to seeing where we can take them and the readers they’ll reach.”

Selected poet, Jane Thomas says “I am delighted! I feel so ready to release my words into the world. I have long been a fan of Out-Spoken Press and Anthony’s work and I am really looking forward to completing my debut over the next year with this support. Thank you so much for this plum opportunity in my fiftieth year!”

Out-Spoken Press, shortlisted for Small Press of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2020, 2021 and 2022, was recently awarded Arts Council England funding to pursue this. Since its founding in 2014, Out-Spoken Press has focused on platforming diverse new voices, particularly through early-career support of writers who have gone on to more mainstream success, including Joelle Taylor, Raymond Antrobus, Sabrina Mahfouz, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa and Harry Josephine Giles.

About the Poets 

Courtney Conrad is a Jamaican poet. She is an Eric Gregory Award winner and a Bridport Prize Young Writers Award recipient. She was shortlisted for The White Review Poet’s Prize, Manchester Poetry Prize, Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, Mslexia’s Women’s Poetry Prize, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award’s Poetry Prize and the Poetry Wales Pamphlet competition. She was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition, Rebecca Swift Women Poets’ Prize and The Rialto Nature and Place Poetry Competition. Her poems have appeared in Magma Poetry, Poetry Wales, The White Review, Stand Magazine, Poetry Review, Bath Magg and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. Her work has been anthologised by Anamot Press, Bridport Prize, Re.creation, Peekash Press, Bad Betty Press and Flipped Eye Press. She is an alumna of The London Library Emerging Writers Programme, Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, Barbican Young Poets, Obsidian Foundation Retreat, Griots Well Collective and Roundhouse Poetry Collective. She has performed at Glastonbury Festival, Brainchild Festival and UKYA City Takeover. Commissioned by the Museum of London, Guildhall, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Britain, The African Centre, BBC 1Xtra and Spread the Word.

Emily Abdeni-Holman is a British-Lebanese writer with particular interests in our relationships to place and the past. Her work is concerned with spirituality, body, and landscape, as well as how we use language to navigate significance. 

Alex Mepham is a PhD student investigating how background noise impacts speech understanding. Alex is the current Poetry Editor at Queerlings magazine, and has had work appear in Magma, Dreich, Berlin Lit, Visual Verse, Ink Sweat & Tears, and Modern Poetry in Translation among others. Alex lives in York, and more information about Alex’s work can be found at amepham.carrd.co.

Jane Thomas is passionate about words, health, inequalities, and interbeing. She has been highly commended in the Bridport, Fish, Live Canon, Hippocrates, Cheshire prize, Poetry Wales and The Rialto pamphlet competition and published in publications including: Stand, Mslexia, Urthona, Envoi and The ORB. She is a grateful recipient of a DYCP grant from Arts Council England and a co-creator of Port Sunlight Poetry.

Published 21 June 2023