Ambitious plans for National Poetry Centre in Leeds revealed


Poet Laureate and Professor of Poetry Simon Armitage has today announced ambitious plans for a National Poetry Centre in Leeds.

The major partnership between Professor Armitage, the University and other city partners, will mark the appointment of the Yorkshire-born poet as Poet Laureate, and create a lasting legacy to mark his decade-long tenure.

The collaboration will be led by Leeds City Council, Leeds 2023, the University and other important partners.

The intention is to provide a space that offers an extensive poetry collection with research facilities, rehearsal and performance spaces, a friendly café, opportunities for writers to exchange ideas, and event spaces for literary prizes and hopefully accommodation for visiting writers from across the UK and all over the world.

The project is Professor Armitage’s response to the opportunities offered by the royal appointment of the laureateship to develop initiatives and projects that enhance education, foster new talent and promote literature and literacy.

We are committed to strengthening the cultural life of our city because we know what incredible social and economic impact it can bring.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council

Professor Armitage said: “One very ambitious goal I have set myself over the forthcoming decade of my tenure is to develop a National Poetry Centre, to bring poetry in line with other national art forms that have their own headquarters and venues, such as the National Theatre and the National Gallery.

“In my view the centre needs to be outside London and Leeds is an ideal location: accessible, central, dynamic, contemporary, future-minded, people-oriented, community-aware, committed to cultural regeneration, and building momentum towards 2023.

“Poetry is one of our most ancient and proudest artistic endeavours, steeped in tradition, history and ritual. It's also undergoing an incredible renaissance at present, particularly in relation to new generations of writers and performers across diverse backgrounds who have found in poetry a way of articulating their concerns and expressing their feelings.”

The University has a long-standing and historically important engagement with poetry and poets.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor

Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said: “The University has a long-standing and historically important engagement with poetry and poets, and many of our alumni have gone on to great acclaim.

“Simon Armitage is the University’s first Professor of Poetry, and we have globally significant archives of individual poets and publishers in our Special Collections in the Brotherton Library.

“We are very proud of our literary achievements, and a national centre for poetry is a wonderful fit with both our mission to educate and engage, and our aspirations to be a world-leading University with strong local roots and a truly international character and outlook.

“Collaborating with Professor Armitage offers our city, as well as our students and staff from all over the world, a fantastic opportunity to showcase the terrific literary work that is going on here.”

Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “We are so honoured that Simon has chosen to develop his vision for a national poetry centre in Leeds.

“We are committed to strengthening the cultural life of our city because we know what incredible social and economic impact it can bring.”

Ruth Pitt, Chair of Leeds 2023, said: “The minute Simon mentioned his vision to us at the start of his tenure we knew it was something we wanted to do. Poetry speaks to everyone and any of us can pick up a pen and write.

“A National Poetry Centre embodies everything we want to achieve, which is to benefit our people, nurture learning, talent and creativity and to establish a visitor destination for poetry and literature fans across the world.”

“We intend that the new centre will be open in time for our spectacular year of culture in 2023,” added Leeds 2023 creative director Kully Thiarai.

“It’s such an exciting project and a fantastic way to mark Simon’s appointment as our first patron. Now the serious work begins and we look forward to collaborating closely with Simon and also a whole range of other artists, performers and community groups as we develop our plans.”

The project will now develop through an ongoing partnership between Simon Armitage, Leeds City Council, Leeds 2023 and the University to identify a site and secure funding.

Further information

For additional information please contact the University of Leeds media relations and communications team on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email