Poetry Society's state funding slashed after row
Rob Sharp is a freelance journalist specialising in arts and culture. He was on staff at The Independent from July 2007 to December 2011, first as a features writer, and then as the paper’s arts correspondent. He has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. For more information visit his website, www.robsharp.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday 26 July 2011
The intellectual Cyril Connolly once described poets as "jackals fighting over an empty well", in reference to their bickering over limited resources. Yesterday it became clear just how bloodthirsty the jackals have become, and just how little water there is left in the well.
The Arts Council has indefinitely suspended public funds to the Poetry Society, the charity whose aim is "to promote the study, use and enjoyment of poetry". It also publishes the influential magazine Poetry Review.
The suspension is pending the resolution of an ongoing management spat at the 102-year-old organisation which has seen a swathe of resignations and a general meeting last Friday attended by hundreds of angry members, who issued a vote of no confidence in the board of trustees.
Leading figures at the society have criticised its management and have panned the Arts Council's decision – taken earlier this year – to award it an extra £100,000 in funding from April 2012.
The problems revolve around a power struggle between two senior members, one of whom has now resigned. On Friday the society said there had been a "dysfunctional relationship" between its former director, Judith Palmer, and the current editor of Poetry Review, Fiona Sampson. It said Ms Palmer had been overworked, and needed to delegate more.
The society's solution was to ask Ms Sampson to report directly to them instead of Ms Palmer. The latter resigned in outrage, and the society's finance director Paul Ranford, president Jo Shapcott, vice-president Gwyneth Lewis, trustee Robyn Bolam and chairman Peter Carpenter all followed suit. The organisation now says its board of trustees will be replaced in September.
The broadcaster Joan Bakewell, a Poetry Society honorary member, said: "I do feel sad that nice people who love words have fallen victim to the world's woes. I suspect poets should know better. I feel sad that many small poetry publishers had their funding axed earlier this year. Maybe the Arts Council shouldn't have put all its books in one basket."
An Arts Council spokeswoman confirmed that the July funding payment was "in abeyance" until the situation improved.
John Simmons, who is on the Poetry Society's Board of Trustees, confirmed that in the absence of the Arts Council's £78,499 quarterly grant payment, the Society was eating into its limited cash reserves of around £100,000 and was considering seeking an overdraft facility from its bank.
A Poetry Society spokeswoman said: "The last few months have been difficult for everyone but it is important now to look forward to an orderly transition to a new Board at the AGM and to work to maintain and strengthen the Poetry Society's position as a leading arts organisation." Sampson was unavailable for comment.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts