Forward Arts Foundation executive director Susannah Herbert has announced she is stepping down after eight years in the role.
During her time at the organisation, Herbert led the development of the Forward Prizes for Poetry and has grown October's National Poetry Day into the UK's biggest one-day poetry festival.
She has also helped broaden the range of contemporary poets studied in schools by getting Forward anthologies on the syllabus and bringing voices including Claudia Rankine, Liz Berry, Kei Miller and Vahni Capildeo to wider public notice in high-profile events.
Herbert, who will leave in the New Year to pursue personal projects, said: "After eight exciting years seeing poetry grow in popularity, it's great to go out on a high, with new poets and new poems at the centre of the nation's conversation with itself during the pandemic. There's nothing more rewarding than making space for fresh voices, inspiring readers to write and writers to read. I wish the Forward Arts Foundation board and team—Holly Hopkins, Mónica Parle and Natalie Charles—the best in continuing to change the world through poetry.”
This year’s National Poetry Day combined a far-reaching digital offer with hundreds of mini-events including #ShareAPoem get-togethers and poetry readings and performances. For the first time it delivered digital events directly, with support of poets and publishers. These included former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell’s Live Draw, Kate Clanchy’s Poetry Possibility series, and the digital exclusive launch of Margaret Atwood’s poem "Blackberries" from her collection Dearly (Chatto).
In October 2020, poetry sales were up on September by 33% in value, 22% in volume, the foundation said.
William Sieghart, the charity’s founder, said: “Forward Arts Foundation has been transformed under Susannah’s leadership. She has developed National Poetry Day and the Forward Prizes into highlights of the cultural calendar and platforms for exceptional talent: she has changed perceptions of poetry in schools and in public life, pushed contemporary poetry to the front of bookshops and held the door open for small publishers, debut poets and online innovators. On her watch, young audiences have found in poetry a space for new accents, voices, registers—a space where they can see themselves as creators. We wish her all the very best in her future projects.”
The Forward Arts Foundation will shortly be launching the recruitment process for Herbert’s successor.