National Poetry Day

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Poetry at Waterloo Station for National Poetry Day 1994

National Poetry Day is a British campaign to promote poetry, including public performances.[1] National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart.[2] It takes place annually in the UK on the first Thursday in October.[3] Since its inception, it has engaged millions of people across the country with live events, classroom activities and broadcasts. National Poetry Day is coordinated by the charity Forward Arts Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate excellence in poetry and increase its audience. Its other projects include the Forward Prizes for Poetry.[4] The day is run in collaboration with partners including Arts Council England, Literature Wales, Poet in the City, Southbank Centre, The Poetry Book Society, The Poetry Society, The Scottish Poetry Library, Poetry By Heart and The Poetry School.[5]

Prince Charles performed in the 2016 National Poetry Day, reading Seamus Heaney' The Shipping Forecast. On 2015 National Poetry Day poems were included on Blackpool Illuminations.[6]

National Poetry Day 2020 is on 1 October. Events, readings and performances will take place across the UK to celebrate,[7] and BT commissioned Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to write "Something clicked", a reflection on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.[8]


National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart who said, "There are millions of talented poets out there and it's about time they got some recognition for their work. They shouldn’t be embarrassed about reading their work out aloud. I want people to read poetry on the bus on their way to work, in the street, in school and in the pub."[9] National Poetry Day is celebrated around the UK. In 1994 the Radio Times wrote "National Poetry Day has been created to prove that poetry has a place in everyone's life. From children chanting to advertising jingles and pop songs, it is used to entertain and communicate across the nation."[10]

The Belfast Newsletter reported, "National Poetry Day swept Ulster yesterday, transforming ordinary citizens into part-time bards or budding Heaneys or Wordsworths."[11] The Daily Telegraph reported that in London at Waterloo station, "The announcement boards were given over to poems about trains by T S Eliot and Auden."[12] The Times that reported Chris Meade, then director of the Poetry Society saying, "Readers are finding a place for poetry in their lives again. You can read one between stations on the Northern Line. It fits well into the modern experience."[13] The East Anglian Daily Times reported, "National Poetry Day was the cue for a stanza bonanza, with railway stations, classrooms, theatres and supermarkets bursting with verse and echoing to epics".[14]


Since 1999, National Poetry Day has been loosely “themed”. National Poetry Day will next take place on 1 October 2020 and the theme will be Vision. A list of previous themes is below:[15]

  • 2020: Vision
  • 2019: Truth
  • 2018: Change
  • 2017: Freedom
  • 2016: Messages
  • 2015: Light
  • 2014: Remember
  • 2013: Water, water everywhere
  • 2012: Stars
  • 2011: Games
  • 2010: Home
  • 2009: Heroes and Heroines
  • 2008: Work
  • 2007: Dreams
  • 2006: Identity
  • 2005: The Future
  • 2004: Food
  • 2003: Britain
  • 2002: Celebration
  • 2001: Journeys
  • 2000: Fresh Voices
  • 1999: Song Lyrics

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Poetry Day". Education in Scotland. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  2. ^ "William Sieghart's profile on Intelligence Squared". Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "About Us". Forward Arts Foundation. Forward Arts Foundation. 1 November 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  5. ^ "National Poetry Day". Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  6. ^ "National Poetry Day". Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  7. ^ "National Poetry Day - 1 Oct 2020".
  8. ^ "Something Clicked". BT. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Stand up and read it aloud!". South Wales Echo. 6 October 1994.
  10. ^ "National Poetry Day". Radio Times. 1–7 October 1994.
  11. ^ "Poets put the word about". Belfast Newsletter. 7 October 1994.
  12. ^ Herbert, Susannah (7 October 1994). "It's a stanza extravaganza". The Daily Telegraph.
  13. ^ Alberge, Dalya (6 October 1994). "Poetry finds a new role in the supermarket place". The Times.
  14. ^ "Pupils come up with wacky words for poems". East Anglian Daily Times. 7 October 1994.
  15. ^ "National Poetry Day - 6th Oct 2016". Retrieved 14 July 2016.