I returned from a fantastic writing course up at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire today - more on this later! - to discover that the Poetry Business, based in Huddersfield, has had its local authority funding cut.
This is a serious blow, not just for the excellent Poetry Business, a well-respected and long-established organisation run by Janet Fisher and Peter Sansom, but for British poetry altogether.
Is this the tip of an iceberg? Are we going to start seeing other substantial cuts to grants for British poetry publishers and organisations over the next few years?
Here is the message from Janet and Peter in Huddersfield:
THE POETRY BUSINESS - PLEASE ACT!
The Poetry Business has had its local authority funding withdrawn for the next three years. As from April 2007, NO literature organisation within the borough of Kirklees now receives any grant aid from the Council.
This is in spite of Culture and Leisure Services' stated aim 'to create a portfolio of partners which represent a good spread of art forms; a good spread of creative work with communities of interest; and a strong creative infrastructure'.
Writer Simon Armitage, who has close links with Huddersfield, called the move 'shortsighted' (Huddersfield Daily Examiner 21.7.07).
Twelve years ago, Ian McMillan, writer and broadcaster and a great supporter of literature, named Huddersfield 'the Poetry Capital of England'. Through its work with poets, the Poetry Business is now a flagship organisation both as publisher of Smith/Doorstop Books and the magazine The North, and as a promoter of poetry in the area, with our regular Writing Days and other help for local writers.
To many the name 'Huddersfield' is synonymous with poetry, and this is due mainly to the work of the Poetry Business.
What this means
Already we have had to make many cuts in our services, and that must continue. We are still supported by Arts Council England, but the Kirklees grant was nearly 40% of our total funding. This comes as a great blow.
But it's not just the lack of money that concerns us (all Authorities are having to make cuts to services - we appreciate that); it's the lack of belief that what we do benefits the borough in many ways. Two years ago they called on us to become 'creative partners' - their term, not ours. Hollow words.
How you can help:
… Write (by letter or email) to complain about the decision to withdraw our grant.
… A Kirklees Council spokesman is quoted in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner on 21.7.07: 'The Poetry Business Š is now not working as effectively as other applicants to contribute to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the district.' If you live, work, study, etc., here, or you visit the borough, can you let Kirklees know your opinion of this statement.
… People to write to:
o The Arts & Creative Economy team (email@example.com);
o Director of Regeneration (firstname.lastname@example.org);
o Councillor Smaje (email@example.com);
o Chief Executive (firstname.lastname@example.org).
o Kirklees MC, Civic Centre III, Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 1WG.
o The Huddersfield Daily Examiner (email@example.com)
… PLEASE ALSO forward this on to any other people who may be interested.
… This isn't an appeal for donations. But if you can support us in other ways such as taking out a subscription to The North, or buying our books, we'd both benefit. Many thanks to all the people who have already responded to us.
For further information, contact: Janet Fisher or Peter Sansom, The Poetry Business, The Studio, Byram Arcade, Westgate, Huddersfield HD1 1ND
tel 01484 434840 email firstname.lastname@example.org, website:www.poetrybusiness.co.uk