William Sieghart CBE is the Founder of National Poetry Day, and The Forward Prize. He is a longtime champion of libraries, and is working in partnership with a charity called CIVIC to put libraries back at the heart of community life.
Areas of interest
- Power of poetry
- Value of Libraries
- Community Engagement
William Sieghart CBE has blazed a trail in publishing and the arts – founding both National Poetry Day and The Forward Prize for Poetry. He believes poems have the power to restore and heal, and has been on a quest to “get poetry out of poetry corner.”
William’s two most recent books have been published by Penguin. The Poetry Pharmacy, and the Poetry Pharmacy Returns prescribe poems for a variety of life problems and inner ailments. William also takes the concept on the road, to festivals and libraries and finds it a way to reach people who feel isolated. That’s something William understands well. He says: “I was eight years old when I was first sent to boarding school, and I was desperately unhappy. At a time when friends were in short supply, I found that poetry became my friend.”
Loneliness, says William, is no less prevalent in today’s hyper connected world.: “Loneliness is the issue that most often presents itself, in an age of social media and inauthenticity where there are fewer opportunities to reconnect and communicate on a genuine level.”
“There is something about the short encounter and power of poetry that enables people to go straight to the heart of the matter.”
William has also been the instigator of supporter of many initiatives that harness business for social good. He founded StreetSmart: Action for the Homeless, and is also a governor of the British Institute of Human Rights. He is chairman of the Arts Foundation and was a member of the Arts Council from 2000-2006 and chairman of its Lottery Panel.
William is also a longtime champion of libraries as community assets that must be protected, and revitalised. He was responsible for the 2014 Independent Library Report for England. In the report, William describes libraries as “a golden thread throughout our lives”, saying: “Despite the growth in digital technologies, there is still a clear need and demand within communities for modern, safe, non-judgemental, flexible spaces, where citizens of all ages can mine the knowledge of the world for free, supported by the help and knowledge of the library workforce. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable in society who need support and guidance and to children and young people who benefit from engagement with libraries outside of the formal classroom environment.”
William is currently working in partnership with CIVIC on the Libraries Transformation Project. CIVIC wants ‘to put libraries at the heart of a new and sustainable 21st century operating system for community-first service delivery’, enabling the financial security of public services, re-energising the position of libraries in communities and creating improved citizen outcomes. This project will be piloted within Cambridgeshire County Council to reinvigorate their 37 libraries, with the aim of rolling out the new model over the next three years.