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Our National Poetry Library could be axed – please sign the petition

This is no exaggeration. There doesn’t to be much hope for the National Poetry Library on London’s Southbank, since the Chief Exec is apparently determined to move the library out of the building “in order to monetise more of the Southbank Centre’s space”.

First of all, anyone who’s ever visited the Poetry Library knows it’s hardly taking up much space, nor is it in a prime location, tucked away up on the fifth floor of the Royal Festival Hall at the end of a large empty area.

More to the point, the Arts Council has guaranteed an annual grant of more than £18 million for the Southbank Centre every year until 2022, 1.5% of which is for the library (£275,400). This funding is close to the CEO’s annual salary and bonus for the 2018-19 financial year (which is in the published accounts online).

In my book, demanding that the Library justify its presence on a purely monetary basis is capitalism at its most gross and destructive. Should a library make a profit? And a poetry library at that?

The Poetry Library was created by the Arts Council in 1953 and entrusted to the Southbank Centre in 1988 on the basis it was to run as a ‘living collection’ with ‘professional stewardship’.  It is a unique resource and whether or not we are members or regular users of it we would all be the poorer were it to be lost.

If you’d like to help then please join me in signing the petition. I don’t generally use this blog for grandstanding, but this is something I really can’t ignore.

Published inBlogEvents


  1. Kim Kim

    I have signed — poetry is more important than ever in these times.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks Kim!

  2. Gráinne Gráinne

    I’ve signed and shared. I am rarely in London but this place has been a site of pilgrimage And recuperation for me on visits there. I think of it when I’m here at home in Northern Ireland, as a mental refuge. Absolutely anyone can come in and look round so it feels like -felt like – a genuinely communal generous space. And it is great for children, who usually get offered so little. Without paying. This feels very bad to me, as if the Westminster government is signalling the end of any post WW2 aspiration for a just society.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks Grainne, yes it’s a disgrace. I just hope if the Library has to leave the Southbank Centre they can find a suitable & sympathetic home elsewhere in London… maybe the Arts Council could pay them the £275k directly and bypass the Southbank!

  3. Gráinne Gráinne

    PS Sorry, typos. Squinting into an iPad.

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Robin Houghton 2021