Poetry Society funding under threat after entire board steps down

27 Jul 2011 News

The Poetry Society must "get its house in order" or lose its Arts Council funding, the grantmaker has warned following a governance dispute which has seen the entire board step down.

The Poetry Society must "get its house in order" or lose its Arts Council funding, the grantmaker has warned following a governance dispute which has seen the entire board step down.

The dispute occurred after the charity was awarded an increase in funding by the Council of over £300,000 over the next three years. On 20 May, shortly after the announcement, the charity's director Judith Palmer resigned. Her resignation was followed by that of the Society's President, Jo Shapcott on 3 June, the chair of trustees, Peter Carpenter on 29 June, celebrated poet and trustee Robyn Bolam on 4 July and vice president Gwyneth Lewis on 12 July.

Bolam said at the time that her resignation was "because it has become increasingly difficult for me to carry out my duties to the Society". 

Members invoked an EGM which was attended on Friday by 163 members. There it was announced that the entire board would resign at the next AGM which has been brought forward by six weeks to September.

Board had 'misjudged their decisions'

In an "honest and well-considered" statement by trustee John Simmons at the event, the board admitted that they had "at times misjudged their decisions and with hindsight they would possibly have done things differently".

Despite the upheaval Arts Council England advised: "We still believe that the Poetry Society has the potential to take a lead in the sector, as a champion of excellence helping more people to participate in the art form. But first, it needs to get its house in order," said a spokesperson.

"We have made it very clear to the Society what it needs to do, as a matter of urgency, in order to re-establish compliance with the terms of its current funding agreement - particularly in the areas of governance, management and leadership, reputational risk and reasonable care," added the spokesperson.

The Council welcomed the resignation of the board which was "clearly a move designed to regain the confidence of the Society's membership in its leadership".

The Poetry Society has received £267,000 of funding in 2008/09, £275,000 in 2009/10, £281,000 in 2010/11 and is set to receive £261,000 in 2011/12. 

The outlined increase in funding would see the Society receive £360,000 in 2012/13 and 2013/14, and £370,000 in 2014/15.

Interim governance

In a potentially shrewd move, the Poetry Council employed former Arts Council director for London Amanda Smethurst as its interim director beginning on 5 July. Laura Bamford was appointed as acting chair on 29 June.

 

 

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