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After the EGM

27th July 2011 –

Judith Palmer’s summary of the current situation at the Poetry Society

Statement from Judith Palmer, former Director of the Poetry Society

Please post comments and suggestions here on ways in which we can move forward from the EGM.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2011 3:53 pm

    If anyone needs a signature to complete a nomination to the board I would be happy to provide one (assuming I liked the proposed candidate natch)

    • August 5, 2011 9:52 pm

      Frances, How do we get in touch with you? I am looking for three proposers but am under pressure of time because I go on holiday on Tuesday and come back on the day nominations close! I look forward to getting in touch. Bryan

      • Angela France permalink
        August 6, 2011 6:42 am

        I will – email me on angela dot france at sky dot com

  2. July 30, 2011 11:59 am

    I note that three Trustees were co-opted at the EGM. The Constitution only provides for two. Was the Constitution’s provision in this matter officially suspended? If not, what is the legal status of three co-opted Trustees instead of the two provided for by the Constitution that the Board are duty-bound to uphold?

  3. Martin - admin permalink*
    July 27, 2011 12:59 am

    Statement from Judith Palmer, former Director of the Poetry Society

    – on the home page.

  4. Martin permalink*
    July 26, 2011 9:25 pm

    Letters to The Board…

    I sent this at the weekend. I haven’t yet had a response. Please post yours….

    Dear Board of Trustees,

    I am writing to you as a Member of the Society, as the administrator of the Members’ website and as a concerned participant in Friday’s meeting. I am also writing as a Member who has had, until three weeks ago, absolutely no contact with the Poetry Society other than in its public communications with Members.

    I was pleased that you called the meeting and that you eventually agreed that the agenda would be that of the requisition. I was also pleased and relieved that you chose to announce your resignations, and that John Simmons spoke so feelingly about the errors that had been made. I was also pleased that you agreed to co-opt three Trustees from the nominations suggested by the meeting, and profoundly disappointed that you chose not to appoint more.

    You must realise that your decision to remain as Trustees until the AGM in September is not in the interests of the Society.

    It is clear that only the three recently co-opted members have any moral authority in the current Board – which, though I am aware that the Board was not unanimous in the stance it took at the EGM, puts you all in an untenable position.

    Many Members were profoundly disappointed that you did not agree to stand down sequentially as individuals, in order to co-opt replacements so that the Board would be entirely new and therefore able to start the business of the crucial weeks to come with a clean slate.

    This process would be entirely constitutional and your concerns about a stable transition would be assuaged by the offer you might make to act as advisers should you be called upon to exercise that function.

    In fact, your determination to stay in post until the AGM profoundly undermines the Society. ACE has already publicly made it clear that it does not believe you have shown compliance with its requirements. It is not only the Members who have expressed their lack of confidence in the Board.

    One of the roots of this lack of confidence in the Board is the way in which the Board has dealt with the apparent conflict between the Director and the Editor of the Poetry Review. It is very clear that this will not be resolved with the current Board still in place, and the financial consequences that may result would almost certainly destroy the Society. The fact that the Board has enquired not only about overdrafts but also about a valuation for Betterton Street, indicate a dire situation.

    When I offered to set up the Members’ website, I had one question: what on earth has been going on with all these resignations? Sadly, what has emerged since then has beggared belief.

    I fail to understand why you insist on staying on until September. What possible advantage could this have for the Society? You must be aware of the implications of this decision for Judith Palmer and that it is not soon enough for her to resolve the issues raised with her by the Board. The hiatus between now and then, with the current Board in place, will actively prevent a resolution of the problem. To say that you are ‘in negotiation’ with Ms Palmer is plainly disingenuous. I do not know much about her but I do know that if the Society fails to resolve the issue, irreparable harm will have been done.

    ‘Lame duck’ is a cliché, but it is, in this case and unfortunately, an apposite one.

    The Membership has no confidence in you as a group. You can not possibly believe that this is a misinformed, partisan, emotional or ignorant view.

    Vital work needs to be done in the next few weeks. You had the courage to do the right thing and announce your resignation at the EGM. There just isn’t time to to wait until then for the election of a new Board and you must make sure that a new Board is in place well before then so that it can resolve the current issues with energy, commitment and integrity.

    It would be entirely constitutional to replace yourselves immediately with co-opted Trustees. There will be an election for new Trustees at the AGM and those co-opted Trustees who are not elected will stand down. In the intervening weeks, if the issues that threaten to cripple the Society are not resolved, the Society will be in grave danger of collapse. It would be absurd for you to imagine that the ACE will have confidence in a Board that does not have the confidence of the Members it has so dramatically failed to represent.

    Finally, I don’t for a moment think that you have acted cynically or with malicious intent. That would be absurd. But you have dealt badly with a difficult situation and you must step aside to let others repair the damage.

    Do the right thing. If you don’t, the Society risks dissolution. You will not save it, and the only good that remains for you to do is to allow others to take on the task of saving the Society.


    Martin Alexander

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 26, 2011 9:39 pm

      Thanks so much Martin for writing this strong letter, articulating what I believe many others are thinking too.

      I’ve tentatively voiced this in a few other places and realise it sounds cynical but is it possible there are some who are okay with Poetry Society failing: a scorch and burn policy?

      This sounds implausible I know yet so much else implausible turns out to be plausible.

    • Judi Sutherland permalink
      July 27, 2011 4:48 pm

      Seconded. Having discredited trustees in place only prolongs the agony for Judith and Paul, who should both be re-instated if they can bear to go back. I’d rather the Society had no trustees at all until the AGM (unless that is unconstitutional in which case interim trustees should come forward).

      I’d also like to see hustings here on the website for all the new officers and trustees of the Society so when the vote happens we have some background on their suitability.

    • anne permalink
      July 28, 2011 1:11 pm

      I wrote to Trustees individually, sample letter to the Chair below. I wrote in different terms to the three Trustees in whom Paul Ranford expressed confidence, and to the newly co-opted Trustees, telling them what I had said to the others and wishing them luck. With those six Trustees in place the Board is quorate even if all the others go. If I were writing the letter today, having read Judith Palmer’s statement, I would have expressed it in stronger terms. I wish there could be a letter from a group of poets as distinguished as those who have signed the petition for JP’s reinstatement. These Trustees still have the potential to wreak continuing havoc in their remaining time in office. There are no excuses left. They should go now.

      24 July 2011
      Dear Laura Bamford

      I was at The Poetry Society EGM on Friday, and heard you pay tribute to the staff, in particular to the former Director whose energy and dedication had won the new grant from Arts Council England. I heard you say how committed you and the rest of the Board are to the Society and its future success. You cited that commitment as a reason for staying on until the AGM in September, to ensure an orderly handover.

      I also heard Paul Ranford speak, and the answers to many questions from the floor – all of which left me in no doubt that the Board which had wrought such organisational havoc, risked financial peril and plunged the society into a public relations disaster ought to resign immediately. I heard the explanation why this would not be possible.

      I was pleased that the Board felt able to co-opt three new Trustees suggested by members. Now that has happened, the Board is up to full complement. There is no need for you to stay until September. You talked about the need for an orderly handover: the remaining Trustees can see to that. There was no such orderly handover when the Director was locked out of her office unable to work her notice.

      Every day that members of the discredited Board remain in office is a day longer that the Arts Council withhold their core funding grant, and a day longer before the new award can be drawn down and put to work. As for Judith Palmer, whom I have never met, surely every day you stay in office is one more day that she stays out of hers, and one more day nearer the inevitable day when she will have to decide whether to risk trusting that another Board appointed by the AGM will reinstate her, or to protect her position by starting proceedings for constructive dismissal before time runs out. Meanwhile, time passes, money is needed and jobs remain undone. Other major funders will be looking at the situation with alarm. None of this serves the best interests of the Society.

      Please, consider your position again. It benefits no one to repeat the mantra that the Board stands or falls together. There are new members on the Board now. While mutual support is necessary among members of the Board, now there are new Trustees there is an opportunity for an orderly transition which enables individuals to do the proper thing and manage their departure without damage to the Society.

      Whatever advice you were given about when to step down has been superseded by the co-option of new Trustees. There is no reason for you to remain, and it can only be harmful to the Society and painful for you. If, as you say you do, you have the best interests of the Society at heart, will you please step down with immediate effect?

      Yours sincerely
      Anne Berkeley

  5. Barry Tempest permalink
    July 26, 2011 7:08 pm

    Tenure of the Review Editor
    The problem with this is that the present incumbent now has a permanent post with all the expensively enforceable employment rights that go with that. If the new Trustees in due course do not treat that with care and respect, they will risk creating a new situation very much like the present one.

    That is why it was so remiss of the current board not to open discussion of this change before it was implemented. There are arguments for a permanent editorship as well as against: but it was worth assessing those arguments first.

  6. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 26, 2011 3:04 pm


    To read the TImes’s reportedly inaccurate story about the EGM online you have to pay Murdoch some money and I figure 27,000 or whatever to their lawyers is enough for now.

    The Guardian’s story seems to be the Board’s story. I mean a story about the Board.

    The Indie piece can be found online and may be the only piece which has room for comments, of which there is a growing number, including the real story by Katy Evans Bush, all found here:

    So we had Board called to account now it’s the turn of our finest leading broadsheets and just what IS going on?

  7. July 26, 2011 11:32 am

    Recouping the lost thousands – I notice that the Poetry cafe is, even now, not open on Saturdays before 7p.m. (Closes 11.p.m.)Years ago I visited on a Saturday afternoon, from outside London, and was shocked that a central London cafe was shut. Surely it can be developed, publicised, etc and become a thriving centre?
    The Three Thousand pounds wasted on PR advice by the Board could have been spent on improving and promoting the Poetry Cafe, or even paying wages to Saturday staff.

  8. July 25, 2011 8:23 am

    I’ve written a report on the EGM – you can find it here:

    Michelene Wandor

  9. July 25, 2011 8:13 am

    The length of tenure of the Review editor – the post, not the current holder – should be re-addressed.

    • July 26, 2011 11:22 am

      If someone is left in such a post until retirement (70?) their contemporaries will be similarly aged. Unless a constant entry of younger writers is ensured (by quota?) the tendency will be to keep with the current crop of known poets. With the best will in the world, it is extremely difficult to exclude old friends in such circumstances.

  10. July 24, 2011 11:39 pm

    It occurred to me that, following the EGM, the only Trustees who have the confidence of the Members are the three who were co-opted following the EGM. This should be formally announced with the minutes. 

    We should make it clear to the Board that Trustees other than those recently co-opted have no moral authority and should resign immediately, as has been suggested by Anne, and certainly well before the AGM, co-opting replacements from the suggested list as the current Board resigns.

    The best service that current Trustees could possibly do the Society would be to offer to act as advisers in the interim if it were felt necessary to call on their expertise.

    We should also insist on a clear and published plan of what is to happen between now and the AGM in all the key areas of concern, to the satisfaction of current and soon-to be co-opted Trustees.

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