Nick Barley joins NPC as Director

17th May 2024

An image of Nick

We are thrilled to announce that the acclaimed literary leader Nick Barley will be joining the organisation as its first director.


Nick recently completed a 14-year tenure as Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival – one of the world’s biggest and best-respected literary festivals – and enjoys an international reputation as a cultural leader and events programmer. He has also chaired the judges of the International Booker Prize.


This important appointment signals a new and exciting phase for the National Poetry Centre, which will be based in Leeds and is the brainchild of Yorkshire-based Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. The centre will be the lasting legacy of Simon’s tenure – a national hub promoting poetry, literacy, oracy and learning for people from all cultures and backgrounds.


Nick will be responsible for taking forward ambitious plans for a sustainable headquarters building in Leeds as well as a programme of events and activities that will reach right across the UK – inspiring people to engage with poetry and offering a platform for self-expression regardless of background, language or experience.

The news has been welcomed by Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, who said: “Arts Council England is delighted to hear of the appointment of Nick Barley as the first Director of the National Poetry Centre. We have been proud to support the development of the NPC which will help cement Leeds’ place as a nationally significant centre for literature and be a lasting legacy of Simon Armitage’s period as Poet Laureate.”

NPC chair Ruth Pitt said: “We are thrilled that Nick will be joining us to turn Simon’s incredible vision into reality. All over the country millions of people write poetry at some point in their lives, countless thousands enjoy poetry groups and classes and many more study and publish poetry at all levels. Yet despite the huge contribution that poetry makes to our nation’s heritage and culture, it’s never had a dedicated national headquarters of its own. We’re going to change that – and Nick is the perfect person for the job.”



Nick Barley added: “I was born and raised in Yorkshire and I’m thrilled to be returning home to lead in the delivery of this genuinely ground-breaking project, which builds on four years of inspiring preparatory work by Simon and the trustees. Leeds is one of the most vibrant and culturally ambitious cities in the UK right now: it’s the perfect location geographically for an HQ and Yorkshire already enjoys a vibrant poetry scene. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to work with writers and readers – to create a nationally significant building that Leeds will be proud of, and to bring poetry alive for people across the UK.”


The project has been made possible thanks to the support of a range of partners including Arts Council England, the University of Leeds, Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, all of whom have backed the idea since Simon first shared his vision shortly after taking over as Laureate in 2018.