Both Ken Edwards, publisher behind Reality Street Editions, and Pierre Joris have brought to my attention to a very sad state of affairs: Arts Council England North East has withdrawn all funding from Colpitts Poetry - with immediate effect.

Colpitts boasts an unbroken tradition going back to 1975 and has claims to be considered one of the most important live-reading venues in the UK. This blow has come entirely without warning just as we were preparing to celebrate happily the culmination of our thirtieth-anniversary year, and obviously we feel galled that the tree, instead of being garlanded, now has the axe swinging around its base ready to bring thirty years crashing to the ground. But as poets who've read there have attested, it is a living history and not some abstract "heritage" that powers Colpitts as a vital space in which poets perform, promote and sell their work, network, collaborate and test their ideas in the company of a receptive and alive audience. Colpitts is its poets and its audience as much as its venue and its organisers, and this decision if allowed to stand will hit hard, by no means just locally. But it will also hit the region hard if Durham loses its place on the poetry map -- we're not exactly over-blessed with arts provision and funding in the area between Tyne & Wear and the Tees

[P]oets -- average income £7K per annum! -- have long since sold most of their books at readings rather than in bookshops, yet now they are to be further denied this opportunity in the North-East, denied the income that comes from giving readings, and denied audiences that are their lifeblood -- not just in an economic sense but in the sense that it's through communication and creative exchange with an audience that poets are able to try and strengthen their work, to the enrichment of both parties.

The Colpitts committee (Jackie Litherland, Michael Standen, Jo Colley, Patty O'Boyle, Ian Horn and Michael Ayton) have decided to fight this decision and have asked that word be spread. For more information, email To oppose the decision please email:

Please copy into your email (Gary is Head of Literature at London HQ).

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