A review of the state of the Poetry sector in England and how a Thrive! Action plan might help strengthen it

A review of the state of the Poetry sector in England and how a Thrive! Action plan might help strengthen it

By Arts Council England
BOP Consulting


This action proposal starts with a review of the state of the poetry sector (written and live performance) and audiences for poetry, before the Thrive! Programme. It then describes the five proposed themes for developing the sectors with ideas for possible action.


Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Thrive programme was launched as a pilot programme in 2007 to give participating arts organisations the opportunity to test ambitious new operating models. In all, twenty one projects were included in the programme, involving over one hundred and thirty separate arts organisations nationally.

Planet Poetry was established by a consortium comprising the Poetry Society, Poetry Book Society, Poetry School and Apples and Snakes in response to the Thrive! funding opportunity. It was awarded Thrive! funding with the aim of creating a framework for collaboration within the poetry sector, particularly between the founder organisations.

In autumn 2008, Planet Poetry’s board, staff and project facilitator – as well as directors
of the consortium organisations and Arts Council England – concluded that, while the possibility of collaborative organisational development in the poetry world was well worth
exploring, Planet Poetry was unlikely to result in an implementable business case. It was
consequently decided to end Planet Poetry earlier than originally intended and to focus
on capturing and evaluating the learning to date, in order to make different arrangements
for investing the remaining Thrive! funds for the benefit of the poetry sector.

Following the decision to cease the operation of Planet Poetry, BOP Consulting was
tasked with:

  • Completing an evaluation of Planet Poetry, which is summarised within a separate report prepared for Arts Council England.
  • Consulting a wide range of figures within the poetry sector on the scope for strategic and collaborative organisational development within the sector in future, with
    particular consideration of themes or types of activity that might be supported
    through the allocation of the remaining Thrive! funding.
  • This report sets out the results of BOP’s consultations and its recommendations for the
    Thrive! funds, as well as for the longer term development of the poetry sector.

    To prepare this report BOP reported to a steering group drawn from Arts Council England and Planet Poetry staff. Steering group members are listed in Appendix A.


    BOP invited a total of 91 consultees to take part in an interview or focus group. The consultees were prominent figures within the poetry sector and were identified by Planet
    Poetry staff and the steering group. The intention was, as far as possible, to represent
    the full scope of the poetry ‘production chain’ including poets, promoters, publishers, booksellers and critics.

    63 responded to BOP's invitations to take part in an interview or focus group. BOP subsequently completed 21 interviews and four focus groups, as well as various follow-up emails and conversations.

    The questions posed to consultees within the interviews and focus groups were developed by BOP and the steering group. They reflected the priorities for sectoral development identified by Planet Poetry, exploring themes of:

  • The state of the poetry sector (both its structure and activities)
  • Current and potential future collaboration and organisational development
  • Poetry audience profiles, trends and audience development initiatives
  • Working with young people and the education
  • Digitisation
  • The role of Arts Council England
  • A minority of the interviews were with people who were directly involved with Planet Poetry: for these interviews a slightly different set of questions was used in order to also capture their views on Planet Poetry, to inform BOP's evaluation.

    Download the report to read more

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    Organisational development
    Resource type: Research | Published: 2013