About Us

Our Mission

Forward Arts Foundation promotes public knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of poetry in the UK and Ireland. We are a charity committed to widening poetry’s audience, honouring achievement and supporting talent: our programmes include National Poetry Day, the Forward Prizes for Poetry and the Forward Book of Poetry, an annual anthology of the year’s best poems.

Our mission is

  • To celebrate excellence in poetry
  • To increase poetry’s audience
  • To deepen appreciation of poetry’s role

We are supported in our aims by the BBC, Royal Mail, leading publishers and booksellers and by Arts Council England, which described us in 2016 as ‘a coordinating force.’

Our two main programmes are the annual Forward Prizes for Poetry and National Poetry Day, which as the UK’s biggest mass-participation celebration of poetry encourages people to enjoy, discover and share poems they love on the first Thursday of October.

We co-ordinate the national campaign for poetry year-round by working closely with schools and libraries, and encouraging the poetry and literature/literacy sectors to collaborate as a UK-wide poetry network on marketing, digital communications and education.

While continuing to focus on developing audiences for poetry, in the next five years we will prioritise initiatives that build robust evidence of poetry’s potential for positive social impact.

To be alerted to opportunities, offers and good poetry, join our mailing list

Our Backers

We are greatly indebted to the Prizes’s sponsor BookmarkArts Council England, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the John Ellerman Foundation and to the late Felix Dennis.

Our History

Forward Arts Foundation was created in 1991 by William Sieghart, the founder of the publisher Forward Worldwide, now known as Bookmark. A poetry-lover, he wanted an anthology containing the best poetry of the year. Since none existed, in 1992, he published one himself

The contents of the first Forward Book of Poetry were chosen over 1991/1992 by the five judges of the first Forward Prizes for Poetry, including Sir Stephen Spender, Margaret Drabble and Roger McGough. The Forward Book and Forward Prizes attracted both people who did not know where to begin with contemporary poetry, and die-hard poetry readers.  The Forward Prizes’ power to make reputations is comparable to that of the Man Booker Prize.

In 1994, Sieghart founded National Poetry Day, a day of mass celebration of all things poetical which was taken up enthusiastically by schools, factories, offices and even railway stations. Last year, the campaign worked closely with schools, libraries, booksellers and retailers, joining with BBC Local Radio to commission 13 new poems celebrating the nation’s different regions. National Poetry Day now reaches over 500 million people annually, largely through social media, where the hashtag #nationalpoetryday and the invitation to share a poem prove a winning combination.