Ian McMillan was born near Barnsley and wanted to be a writer all the way through his schooldays, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. All the books he got out of the library were written by people who lived in Surrey, not the Yorkshire Coalfield. So as a teenager he wrote all the time without ever working out how to make a living from it. Now he’s been a poet, broadcaster, commentator and programme maker for over 25 years. He’s explored language & communication with students, teachers, policy makers, local authority officers, politicians and business communities.

Ian has worked in schools, theatres, arts centres, fields and front rooms. He’s poet-in-residence for English National Opera, The Academy of Urbanism and Barnsley FC. Previously he was UK Trade & Investment’s Poet, Yorkshire TV’s Investigative Poet and Humberside Police’s Beat Poet. He presents The Verb every week on BBC R3 and he’s a regular on Coast, Pick of the Week, You & Yours, Last Word and The Arts Show. He was recently castaway on Desert Island Discs. Ian currently tours with his acclaimed verse autobiography Talking Myself Home and The Ian McMillan Orchestra, which featured on The South Bank Show and at BBC Proms Plus.


Caroline Bird, who was born in 1986, was a winner of the Simon Elvin Young Poets of the Year Award in 1999 and 2000, and the Peterloo Poets Competition for Young Poets in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Her first collection, Looking Through Letterboxes, was published by Carcanet in 2002; her second collection, Trouble Came to the Turnip, appeared in 2006. Watering Can (2009) was a PBS Recommendation, and her most recent collection The Hat-Stand Union was published in 2013. She was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Dearmer prize in 2001 and won a major Eric Gregory Award in 2002.


Clare Pollard was born in 1978, and studied at Cambridge University. Her first poetry collection, The Heavy-Petting Zoo, was published in 2000 and her second collection, Bedtime, was published in 2002. Her collections of poetry include Look, Clare! Look! (2005), Changeling (2011) and a translation of Ovid’s Heroines (2013). In 2009 she edited an anthology of new poetry with James Byrne: Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (2009). Clare Pollard lives in London and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Essex University.


Paul Farley was born in Liverpool in 1965. His first collection of poetry, The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (1998), won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection. He was first shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize in 2002 for The Ice Age, which also won the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2003. He has written widely for BBC Radio and his book of non-fiction, Edgelands: Journeys into England’s Last Wilderness (2010), written with Michael Symmons Roberts, won the Jerwood Prize for Non-Fiction. His fifth collection, The Dark Film, was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize in 2012, and his Selected Poems was published in 2014 by Picador.


Robert Crawford is a poet and critic, born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1959. He has been the author of six collections of poetry since his first in 1990, four of which have been Poetry Book Society Recommendations. As a scholar he works as the Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St Andrews and as published several volumes of literary criticism on Scottish literature and poetry. He has twice won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, and his last collection, Full Volume, was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize in 2008. His latest collection is Testament (Jonathan Cape).