Welcome to the annual review of our year – and what a year it was!
We hope this finds you and yours safe and well. Like many others, the Poetry Archive team has been working from home to ensure we could stay open to everyone who enjoys the inspiration, comfort and learning that our collections of poetry can bring. This was the 20th anniversary of our first recording and, despite restrictions, we’ve added more exceptional poets to the Archive this year. Our first recording was of U A Fanthorpe back in 2000, and she was also one of the poets our co-founder, Richard Carrington, included in his guided tour of the Archive.
We began the year with Roger Robinson joining our T S Eliot Foundation funded collection of T S Eliot Prize-winners. The Children’s Archive continued to grow with new poems added by John Agard and Grace Nichols. Our Director was invited to be one of the judges of the CLiPPA Prize, run by CLPE for collections of children’s poetry. Steve Camden, the winner in 2019, joined our new and growing collection of CLiPPA winners in the Children’s Poetry Archive. Zaro Weil, this year’s winner, will join us soon.
March found us, as with everyone, quickly refocusing our work and plans around the restrictions imposed by close-down. We are a digital Archive and were thankful that we could continue to make our poetry accessible free of charge. Poetry can be a great inspiration and comfort in challenging times and we are hugely grateful for the support you continued to give us this year.
We launched our Poetry Archive Now! WordView 2020 Competition in March. Simon Armitage and Roger Robinson gave us a brilliant start with videos responding to events in 2020. In November we welcomed over 370 poets from 22 countries to our dedicated YouTube showcase, where you will find their work. Our panel of judges, led by Imtiaz Dharker, had the difficult task of choosing just 20 poets to be represented in the WordView 2020 Collection on the website and we have been knocked over by our visitor’s reaction to all the poems sent in. We will be keeping all these poems safe in the Archive and available to watch and listen to. We are sure you will love them and huge congratulations to everyone who took part.
We’ve been working hard on our digital services this year too, improving the work we can share through our website and social media, and collaborating with more organisations than ever. Through the first lockdown we shared some Children’s Challenges to encourage children to explore poems they might not have come across before, and we loved seeing how many of you used our ‘distraction free’ mode to listen so carefully, which proved very popular. We introduced our new Membership scheme at the end of last year, and your generosity has provided vital funds to our recording programme. We are so grateful for every £1 donated to us and all funds raised go to growing our collections, ensuring we can share them free of charge.
In October we enjoyed the Laurel Prize Awards, created by the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage and delivered by the Poetry School – we are looking forward to starting our Laurel Collection celebrating this prize with their inaugural Prize winner, the fabulous Pascal Petit. We also loved the British Library event to celebrate the work of Edwin Morgan which used our recordings so the man himself could be heard at the event. We continue to support the Poetry by Heart recitation competition with recordings from our site and are delighted to see that competition grow and grow. We also took part in another wonderful National Poetry Day this year, contributing a selection of poems drawn from our collections on the theme of Vision.
As this year draws to a close we are full of plans for next year. The Poetry Archive has partnered with Poetry Screen, an innovative project which asks poets and film-makers to collaborate. Young artists are invited to be inspired by our classic collections, or to write their own poetry in response to the Archive’s collections and we’ll look forward to the results next year. Also coming up is the Poetry Archive Now: WordView 2021 collection which will be open for entries next summer. We have more great poets joining the Archive too, so look out for John Berengarten, Hannah Sullivan and Nick Makoha as well as the yet to be announced winner of the TS Eliot, CLiPPA and other prizes. The Children’s Poetry Archive will ring to the voice of Laura Mucha this December and we have a whole raft of new teaching resources ready for our TEACH area to support anyone teaching or exploring poetry in more depth.
To our visitors, donors, Members, Patrons, funders and everyone who has listened, watched or supported us to care for and grow the Archive – we send you heartfelt thanks! Your support has been a shining light in otherwise difficult times and every one of you has ensured we can bring you poetry spoken aloud, more vital, inclusive and life-affirming than ever. We can’t wait to bring you more poetry next year to ensure everyone can hear the poets they love.
The Poetry Archive Team