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Poet Laureate Simon Armitage announces a ten-year tour of the UK’s libraries

Over a week in each spring for the next decade, Simon Armitage will give readings in libraries across the UK. Using the alphabet as a guide, his Laureate’s Library Tour will involve local communities, poets and students at each stop on the journey, and will celebrate the library as one of our great and necessary institutions.

Armitage says: ‘My experience of reading and writing began in the village library where I grew up, then in the nearby town library, then in libraries at various places of study and teaching. The very existence of the library system is under threat, but libraries still stand at the heart of many communities and for some people are an invaluable aspect of everyday life, giving access not just to books but to services, learning, conversation and creative thinking. I want to pay my respects to these unique institutions. By planning readings up to a decade in advance I’m being optimistic about the future of our libraries, and challenging those authorities who would consider closing them down.’

The tour will welcome invitations from libraries in cities or rural communities, from public libraries or any other kind of library in the UK willing to throw open its doors to the public for the occasion, including private or independent libraries, mobile libraries or those in schools, universities, prisons or hospitals. It is supported by the T. S. Eliot Estate, who are kindly funding the tour for the full ten years, and his long-time publishers Faber & Faber. 

Along the way, Armitage will donate copies of a new collection, Magnetic Field, to be published for the beginning of the tour, which gathers together his poems on Marsden, the village where he grew up and began life as a writer.

Beginning with the letters ‘A’ and ‘B’ in spring 2020, Armitage will use the alphabet as the framework for the tour: 

The alphabet is the DNA of language and gives us the basic building blocks of all literature. It’s also the system by which many elements of our lives are organised and ordered, not least books on shelves. I would like to find a way of including alphabet letters from other languages spoken in these islands such as Welsh, Urdu or Chinese, and to involve communities where English might not be the first language.
Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate

Simon Armitage was appointed Poet Laureate in 2019. Since 1989 he has published over a dozen collections of poetry and won numerous awards. In 2010 he was awarded a CBE for services to poetry and in 2018 he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Between 2015 and 2019 he was Oxford Professor of Poetry and he is currently Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. His ambitious programme for his laureateship will include an annual prize for environmentally themed poetry and the establishment of a National Poetry Centre.