Sheila Bounford is a publishing industry expert with specialisms in independent presses and the book industry supply chain. She is experienced in mentoring award-winning independent publishers through phases of change and growth. Having become convinced that the key question facing publishers is not, “what’s the future of the book?” but rather, “what’s the future of reading?” In 2016 she took herself off for a challenging two-year “sabbatical” teaching English in an inner-city secondary school with Teach First, and is also studying for an MA in Transformational Leadership in Education. During her career in publishing she was partner in an editorial design and management firm, Executive Director of the Independent Publisher’s Guild (IPG), Head of Business Development at distributor NBN International, and interim MD at Inpress Limited, which provides sales and distribution services to independent poetry presses: the latter is where she first encountered and became an admirer of Nine Arches Press.
Leila Rasheed is the author of several novels for children and young people. She has an MA in Children’s Literature from Roehampton (Surrey) and a distinction in an MA in Writing from the University of Warwick. She designed and teaches a module in Writing for Children and Young People on the MA in Writing at the University of Warwick, and has also taught creative writing in a variety of other settings, including as a visiting author in schools. Most recently she initiated and directed a unique project called Megaphone (www.megaphone.com), which provided mentoring to aspiring children’s authors from BAME backgrounds. Before beginning her career as a writer, she was children’s bookseller at Waterstone’s Brussels. She tweets @MegaphoneWrite and @LeilaR and her own website is www.leilarasheed.com
Jonathan Davidson has worked for thirty years in arts management and literature development. He is joint-founder and Associate Director of the Birmingham Literature Festival, Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands and Director of Midland Creative Projects Limited. He produces theatre-poetry performances, mostly recently with The Belgrade Theatre and Bloodaxe Books. His radio plays are regularly broadcast on BBC Radios 3 and 4. His stage adaptation of Mary Webb’s novel, Precious Bane, toured with Interplay Theatre. His second collection of poetry, Early Train, was published by Smith | Doorstop in 2011 and his most recent pamphlet was Humfrey Coningsby: Poems, Complaints, Explanations and Demands for Satisfaction (Valley Press, 2015). He is Chair of the Arts Policy Committee of the Belgrade Theatre Coventry and on their Board of Trustees. He is a Trustee of Coventry Artspace Partnerships. He is Chair of the National Association of Writers in Education.
Simon Thirsk is a founder director and is currently executive chair of poetry publishers Bloodaxe Books Ltd, a specialist poetry press set up Neil Astley in 1978 and formed into a company in 1982. Amongst other things, he has worked as a journalist, lectured in journalism and marketing, and was co-ordinator of a children’s charity which raised £12m to build a medical research centre. He has also organised literature festivals and chaired a tourism group and town development project.He has been a role model for Big ideas Wales, which encourages young people into business, for over ten years and is also a speaker for Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools initiative whose aim is to inspire young people. His talk “Hero or villain of your own life story?” has been delivered in schools around the country through both English and Welsh (which he learned after moving to Wales in 1997). He divides his time between Newcastle and North Wales.