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.

In partnership with Southbank Centre, 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.

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.

Jude Kelly, Director, Southbank Centre

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

To accompany the tour, we had 10 postcards printed featuring lines from poems by 10 of the touring poets, which you can see below.


25-29 June 2012

Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre with English PEN

Poetry Parnassus in Libraries with The Reading Agency

1 July 2012

Ace Stories, Brighton

3 July 2012

Africa Utopia, London

4 July 2012

Wasafiri & Open University, Cambridge

5 July 2012

Wenlock Poetry Festival, Much Wenlock

5 July 2012

Stratford Poetry Festival, Stratford upon Avon with TJ Dema (Botswana) and Khosal Kiev (Cambodia)

5 & 6 July 2012

Scottish Poetry Library, Glasgow & Edinburgh

5 & 6 July 2012

Verbal Arts Centre, Derry-Londonderry

6 July 2012

Park Street Poetry, Bristol

7 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)

8 July 2012

Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, Hebden Bridge

9 July 2012

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

10 July 2012

Contacting the World, Manchester with TJ Dema (Botswana), Khosal Kiev (Cambodia) and Bewketu Seyoum (Ethiopia)

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)

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