Poetry Book Society “challenges” ACE funding decision

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Posted: 5 April 2011

In a letter sent to Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of ACE, over 100 poets have written to support the PBS:

"We are shocked that the Arts Council has decided to withdraw all funding from the Poetry Book Society, a widely respected and internationally unique organisation that selects outstanding poetry collections for readers and libraries... We ask the Arts Council urgently to reconsider their decision which will have a huge impact on poets, publishers and especially on readers of contemporary poetry.

Go to letter and signatories

One of the signatories, the poet Carol Rumens, has written a passionate defence on the Guardian blog of the PBS and what it means to poets published today.

Letter to The Times

In a letter published in today's Times, George Szirtes, PBS President, and Mary Tapissier, PBS Chair, said: "We must challenge the claim by the Arts Council that the Poetry Book Society's reach and distribution was not as wide or as effective as other applicants'. Selection by the PBS can increase sales of a collection by up to 1,700 copies."

They added: "The PBS has also been successful in having the work of the shortlisted poets for the T S Eliot Prize read on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme and in attracting the largest audience by far for any recent poetry event in Britain".

In a letter by ACE director of literature strategy Antonia Byatt, published yesterday, she said the PBS' "reach and distribution was not as wide or effective as other applicants".

PBS representatives met with ACE yesterday (4th April) to discuss the decision to drop the funding. Campaigner and vice-chair of the PBS Desmond Clarke described the meeting as being "pretty tough". He added: "We had to make it clear to them that as it is at the moment, we are seeking professional advice, but we may have no option but to wind down the PBS and all the related activities, including the T S Eliot Prize".

Clarke said that the PBS petition was approaching 1,000 signatories.

The Society will lose its regular ACE funding from April 2012, as part of the implementation of its new portfolio funding for the arts which followed the Government's cuts in its spending review of October 2010. It is receiving £111,299 from the Arts Council in its final year of funding for the 2011/12 financial year.


How you can help

You can still let Arts Council England know the extent to which their decision will affect you as a PBS member and poetry lover. You can do this by emailing the Arts Council's Chair, Dame Liz Forgan, (chiefexecutive@artscouncil.org.uk) and the Director of Literature in the London office, Nick McDowell (nick.mcdowell@artscouncil.org.uk), and please do copy in the Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey (vaizeye@parliament.uk) and us (chris@poetrybooks.co.uk).

You can make a difference immediately by buying a membership or a book or, if you haven't already, by recommending PBS membership to a friend. Your continued support will help us to survive.

Finally, we have set up a petition online here. Please take the time to sign this and pass it on to your friends. Let's send a clear message to the Arts Council that the PBS and its members are absolutely vital if there is to be an audience for poetry in the future.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and pledging your support - we look forward to continuing to receive this in the years to come.


Categories: Poetry News

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