Originally launching in London, Bad Betty Press have built a reputation for being at the forefront of a thriving poetry scene. Having recently relocated to Nottingham, we catch up with co-owners Amy Acre and Jake Hall to talk about the relationship between poet and editor, alongside their bustling events calendar…
In the late spring of 2017, Amy Acre and Jake Hall decided to start an indie press, and Bad Betty was born - launching into the publishing scene with hopes of releasing work that was packed with grit and guts, left readers sucker-punched, and held no prisoners with its literary ambitions. Rarely doing things in half measures, the founding of Bad Betty coincided with the birth of their daughter. Overnight, Amy and Jake became parents and business owners at the forefront of indie publishing. Six years later they are still stirring up excitement in the poetry scene with an impressive portfolio of anthologies, collections, and pamphlets. With boundary-pushing contemporary poets on their roster, Bad Betty continue to platform a diverse pool of both new voices and established names.
After uphauling their life in London, Amy and Jake have moved their family and business to Nottingham. They are certain to find home in this thriving city of literature, integrating with a lively arts scene and growing events programmes. While sitting down with Jake and Amy, they reflect on the mammoth year they’ve had as an indie press. “We’ve had such a good balance of writers and styles that sit really well together, there’s a lot of shared themes that feel like part of a conversation, but then everyone’s got their distinct voice,” Amy comments. “I’m very proud of the last year, and all those books.”
Jake and Amy are fierce advocates for their authors; they not only act as publishers, but double as publicists, mentors, and cheerleaders. They centre the relationship between their poets and the community in their work as a press, and this is displayed in their impressive events schedule. In 2022, they topped a successful year of publishing with an epic fourteen-stop UK tour. As Jake explains, “This was a special year for us, everything felt right. Our authors, the Arts Council application, moving to Nottingham, putting out twelve books, the biggest tour we’ve ever done, then winning the Michael Marks, we could’ve cut scene there and left happy.”
Once you put a poem out into the world it stops belonging to you
Their advocacy for their poets, continual community outreach, and skilful editing won them the Michael Marks award in November 2022. Outsourcing talent such as Gboyega Odubanjo and Anja Konig enabled Amy to bring together editors with creators, with her artistic process relying on an alchemy of talent and creativity. With teamwork and cooperation as driving forces, poetry travels beyond the page and into the wider community. “We never wanted to publish poetry where the relationship ended with the book coming out,” she tells us. “We want to publish people that can read their work to an audience and connect, work that means something to someone.”
“Once you put a poem out into the world, it stops belonging to you,” Jake adds. “For example, Danez Smith wrote a poem about HIV that became a huge protest poem after George Floyd was murdered in 2020. Smith said that the poems belong to the community that claims it. We want to publish poets who understand that the meanings of their work will change based on how they share it. When the poems are on the page, it still exists in the world, and it will exist in a different way when they perform.” Amy agrees, “We ask ourselves, ‘How are writers making space for the reader? Are they building a world you can step into and inhabit rather than just read?’”
At the heart of Bad Betty is a strong editorial and publishing team that come together for poets they believe in. Their extensive events programmes encourage their authors to take up space and branch into the wider community. Readers and audiences are invited to see poetry as a subtle form of worldbuilding, exploring the lines between what constitutes protests or cultural criticism and the dreaming up of new, alternative worlds.
I can’t wait to see how they bring this vision to Nottingham and the wider East Midlands area. They are currently preparing to continue their schedule packed with open mics, workshops, and featured sets, ready to enrich an already thriving cultural scene here in Nottingham.
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