I work for ... Chris Meade Morag McRae is PA to the director of the Poetry Society

Although I'm not a poet myself I've always enjoyed poetry, having been lucky enough to have been introduced to poets such as Philip Larkin by a teacher when I was at school. I studied viola at music college and went on to work with the City of London Festival as PA to the Classical Music Director, but left when another director went to run the Poetry Society and asked me if I would come with him.

Having been used to the busy events schedule at the festival, I initially thought my job at the Poetry Society was terrible because there was nothing to do. But I took the opportunity to read a lot of contemporary poetry, which I know very little about, and found that I really enjoyed it. Then I saw my first reading, given by Lemn Sissay and it really excited me. I realised that as well as being entertaining, poets have a wonderful way of finding the words to express how we feel. I understood why people traditionally use poetry to mark important occasions such as weddings and funerals.

When I joined The Poetry Society it was in dire financial straights and the atmosphere was both political and difficult. The bank was threatening to call back its loan and there were huge disagreements over whether the society should move from a rambling house in Earls Court to a more practical location. When the director asked me to organise the move to Covent Garden, with just 10 days to go, I felt that at last I had a real role. I became PA to the director shortly afterwards, but the troubles weren't over yet. The Arts Council, who funded the Society, were not happy with us - they said that we had become too London-centred, failing to fulfil our remit of being a national organisation serving the needs of contemporary poetry. I agreed with their criticism, which didn't make me very popular, but whereas most of my colleagues left, I stayed on.

I was thrilled to bits when Chris was made director. From the first, I had picked him out as the best applicant on the grounds that he had submitted an intelligent and funny application. He seemed to share my ambitions for the society and, like Tony Blair at his best, he had the common touch. I was also intrigued by his striking blue eyes and the fact that he wore a bright red raincoat to the second interview.

The first week Chris was here we had a press launch for the New Generation Poets, including Don Paterson, Simon Armitage and Lavinia Greenlaw. The run-up was bedlam and Chris was rather in the way so I sent him off to get a new tie and shirt for the occasion. It was the first time I was bossy to him and it helped to break the ice.

The next major step was when we got a lottery grant to develop two floors of the building into a Poetry Cafe where people could meet, eat and encounter poetry in an informal fashion. I was very involved in the plans, liaising with lots of different people including architects and builders, but had to go on maternity leave in the middle of it. Chris was very supportive of me - people within the society hadn't always been so easy to work for.

Last January we received another lottery grant of pounds 450,000 to go ahead with Poetry Places, Chris's idea of setting up poets-in-residence in often unlikely places for six months. For example, we placed a poet called Peter Sansom at Marks and Spencer who now runs lunch-hour workshops amongst the employees, encouraging them to write poems. It works very well: people are very proud of their poems and go back to work feeling energised and excited. Everyone is now clamouring to have a poet in residence - we've even got a poet in a solicitors firm and a poetry gardener.

It's been my responsibility to administrate the project, drawing up the contracts between the poets and the places, passing on the necessary information and helping with the data base. There's a lot of paper shuffling involved but it's worthwhile because I know that we are laying down a system for the future.

The society is a small and fairly non hierarchical organisation and now very accessible to people with an interest in poetry. We all take calls from budding poets who want to get published, or people who want to be poets but don't know where to start. We try to offer advice to each person and talk about our Good Practice Code so that they are warned of some of the pitfalls of, say, paying money to get published. Chris's 12-year- old daughter Dora likes to go on phone duty when she visits and I've often heard her spontaneously asking people if they want to join the society - she's obviously hugely proud of her Dad.

I feel sad that I am the only member of staff who has lasted the pace and stayed with the society since the original move. It seems that, having gone through such horrid times, I am the person from the society's old days who is benefiting from our recent successes. It has become a privilege to work for the society and for the poets because, having re-invented ourselves, we can now channel all our energy into the business of poetry itself and the means of promoting it, which is paying off. The other day my Mum said: "I heard some poetry on the radio today" - if it's reaching her consciousness, we must be doing something right.

Interview by Katie Sampson

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor