Penned in the Margins’ first incarnation was as a reading series in a converted railway arch in south London. It was 2004. I had just graduated and was itching to get involved in the poetry and spoken word scene. A year or two later and the events, now across the capital, were going well enough for me to give up my job and start the company as a full-time concern. I remember sketching out my business model in biro during my lunch hour. I felt then – and still do now – that there was a missing space in the literature ‘ecosystem’; a space where the avant-garde could mingle with the mainstream, and where performance could leap from the page.

Over the last 13 years, we have published over 70 books, spanning poetry, fiction, literary criticism and creative non-fiction. The hallmarks of a Penned in the Margins book are curiosity, innovation and openness and we pride ourselves on risk-taking work from diverse voices. We work hard to reach new readers, and we’re equally committed to high editorial and production standards.

Cain by Luke Kennard (inside)

We are honoured to be shortlisted for the Clarissa Luard Award, which for us marks the culmination of a year of unprecedented success. In 2016, Sunshine, Melissa Lee-Houghton’s third book with us, was named on shortlists for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, the Costa Book Award and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. It eventually won the Somerset Maugham Award. In the same year, Luke Kennard’s long-awaited fifth collection was the only poetry title shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and won a prestigious British Book Design & Production Award.

Fair Field (Photo credit Graeme Braidwood)

Our publishing programme is complemented by pioneering live literature and theatre productions. We have produced and toured new shows by the critically acclaimed sound poets Caroline Bergvall and Hannah Silva, devised innovative ‘avant-garde cabarets’ involving musicians, poets and performance artists, and adapted poetry collections by Simon Barraclough and Claire Trévien for the stage (to name a few). Our most recent productions have included Siddhartha Bose’s powerful historical play No Dogs, No Indians, which opened at Brighton Festival, and Fair Field – a major reimagining of the medieval poem Piers Plowman through site-specific theatrical performances, podcasts, an exhibition, and educational workshops.

We are also known for our unusual book launches, which have taken place variously in a medieval crypt, a Victorian cemetery, the planetarium of the Royal Observatory, and on a boat in the Thames. We are currently working hard putting the finishing touches to our forthcoming titles, and planning some major new site-specific commissions around the country.

To find out more about the Clarissa Luard Award for independent publishers, click here.