Famous Leeds site to become new home of National Poetry Centre, Simon Armitage reveals

A home has been found for the planned new National Poetry Centre in Leeds, Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has revealed to The Yorkshire Post.

Armitage announced the idea for the site after being made Poet Laureate in 2019, having been named as the University of Leeds’s first Professor of Poetry in 2017.

A development director is currently being hired to move the project forward while the former Trinity St David’s church building on Woodhouse Lane – which in recent decades has been a popular city nightspot but is currently unused – has been identified as the planned location for the site. The building has previously been home to venues named The Quilted Llama, Halo and Church.

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It had initially been hoped the centre would be up and running in time to coincide with the Leeds 2023 year of culture event but Mr Armitage said it is now hoped to open in 2025.

Mr Armitage said: “We now have some money to employ somebody to lead that team and to professionally develop strategies for fundraising.

"We’re well under way now. It is a slow process and when I announced this would happen, there was a lot of optimism there. It is a lot of work and specialist language I’ve had to learn.

"We have a building now in Trinity St David’s. A lot of people in Leeds know it as The Quilted Llama. We have negotiated with the university to have that building and we are very excited about it. It is a very prestigious premises.

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"I think what the architects will do it with will be very transformative as a place that encourages the public to walk in.

Simon Armitage is leading efforts to create a new National Poetry Centre in LeedsSimon Armitage is leading efforts to create a new National Poetry Centre in Leeds
Simon Armitage is leading efforts to create a new National Poetry Centre in Leeds

"We are talking about 2025 as an ambitious time to open. There’s a lot of building work and renovative work to be done before then. But we have got momentum now.”

It is intended the centre would have a cafe and bookshop, as well as rehearsal, performance and study spaces, along with an auditorium.

"We’re hoping to be able to host national literary prizes like the Costa Prize or TS Eliot Prize or maybe more ambitiously things like The Booker if we can start attracting national events into the space. It is incredibly exciting. When you talk to people about it, their eyes light up. It will be an amazing resource for Leeds and the region and a great feather in its cap if we can pull it off."

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He said he believes the Leeds 2023 year of culture celebrations can add to the momentum for the project.