Poetry Library news

New lease of life for The Poetry Library! | 06-Oct-16

On National Poetry Day (Thursday 6 October) The Poetry Library at London's Royal Festival Hall is delighted to announce that it will become the permanent home to the world’s largest public collection of modern poetry, as Arts Council England formally transfers ownership to Southbank Centre in recognition of its long term development and care of the collection. The new ownership coincides with a major new digitisation project, funded by Arts Council England.

The library was established by Arts Council England in 1953 and after numerous homes around London came to its present home at Southbank Centre in 1988. During this time the library has grown to become the largest public collection of modern and contemporary poetry in the world and is open for all to enjoy for free its extensive collection of over 150,000 items. 

After a successful 28 years at Southbank Centre, Arts Council England is formally transferring the collection to Southbank Centre ownership. The arts centre's ethos in providing art for all will ensure that the collection continues to be enjoyed by its regular visitors and its many newcomers over the years ahead.

To mark this transition, with the support of Arts Council England, The Poetry Library will make many of its special collections available digitally as its holdings across audio, posters, postcards, press cuttings and images of poets are transformed from print and analogue into digital versions. These unique collections will become the core of the library's future website which will give further access to poetry wherever you are in the world. The Poetry Library website will begin to house some of its newly-digitised items by National Poetry Day 2017, and a new website with poetry at its core is planned for March 2018.

To celebrate this exciting news The Poetry Library has commissioned poet Hannah Silva to write a new piece which she will perform on The Clore Ballroom at 4pm on National Poetry Day (Thursday 6 October) - part of the celebrations for National Poetry Day Live 2016. Hannah's performance will be recorded for a special edition of BBC Radio 3's The Verb to be broadcast the following day, Friday 7 October, 10pm. Listen here.

Chris McCabe, Poetry Librarian, Southbank Centre, said: "The creation of The Poetry Library by the Arts Council in 1953 was an such an incredibly forward-looking idea which has long been embraced by Southbank Centre's vision in reaching people across the arts. After nearly three decades of its life in the Royal Festival Hall it feels like the right moment for Southbank Centre to take ownership of this rich and ever-growing collection of poetry. There is lots to look forward to in the years ahead, not least of which will be seeing its collections given a new lease of life in the digital age. It's very exciting to think of some of the library's most hidden collections being opened up to new generations of poetry-lovers who can access them on their laptops, tablets and phones. And of course the library will continue to offer its borrowing services from its growing collections and to engage audiences through its regular events and exhibitions.”

Scott Furlong, Director, Collections and Cultural Property, Arts Council England, said: "The Poetry Collection is a unique and wonderful source of inspiration, pleasure and knowledge and has flourished in its home at the Southbank Centre since 1988. We are delighted to confirm the transfer of the collection which we believe will ensure that it is developed and cared for to the highest standards for the long-term public benefit. We are excited by the Southbank Centre's plans to open up digital access to the collection and are confident that The Poetry Library will continue to go from strength to strength as a treasured public resource."

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