Sandeep Mahal

As Director for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, Sandeep is responsible for leading the company artistically and strategically and working closely with partner organisations to develop ideas, creative opportunities and ambition to make Nottingham an even more creative city.

About Sandeep

Sandeep started her career in public libraries in Sandwell, (an area widely known as the inspiration for Tolkein’s grim region of Mordor), before moving to The Reading Agency, where she led a powerful national partnership consortium transforming the way UK publishers collaborated with the UK public library network. There she produced reading campaigns and staged all kinds of author events with authors Zadie Smith, Jarvis Cocker, Adele Parks and Neil Gaiman. Most recently she was Director of The Space – a commissioning agency supporting greater digital access to the arts, co-funded by Arts Council England and the BBC.

Sandeep is a trustee of the Women's Prize Trust and Spread the Word. She was the Literary Consultant at Slam Films where she worked with Slam’s creative team on all literary acquisitions. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious fellowship from the Clore Cultural Institute.

She is judging this year’s Discoveries initiative having previously judged the Costa Prize First Novel Award, the British Book Industry Awards and the Fiction Uncovered Prize.

Why I Read

I grew up in a home with no books and in a Derby community with no reading culture. But the fact that I ended up working with readers and writers is down to the fact that I had a library close to where I lived. Libraries showed me the power of great writing - and the power it gave me. So I care deeply about the future of libraries, the power of literacy to transform people’s lives and the role of literature in fostering empathy, understanding and tolerance in our deeply unstable world. So, given my own love of reading, what could be better than leading an organisation whose mission is all about building a better world with words?

My biggest influence

I love writers that keep me thinking about their themes and characters long after I've finished their books, and Zadie Smith is one of those writers that has made a massive influence on me. Zadie doesn’t draw you in with complex plot or gimmicks, but rather the beauty of being able to observe sects of humanity with insanely rich detail, and what’s more, she’s a strong female role model. She defends the rights of women with the same beauty and passion found in her prose. She wants to see women succeed, not only in publishing but in the world as a whole. Zadie Smith, whether she means to be or not, is a role model for a generation of aspiring writers. That is why I love Zadie Smith.

Contact Sandeep

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