Breaking Barriers: The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre
Submitting InstitutionOxford Brookes University
Unit of AssessmentEnglish Language and Literature
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies
Summary of the impact
The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre has, since its inception, been a focus
for original research, community engagement and external collaborations.
This relationship between research and outreach activities has resulted in
significant cultural, educational and economic benefits. Work with
refugees has empowered the individuals involved and contributed to social
inclusion debates, tackling social and economic issues in creative forms.
Children from underprivileged educational and economic backgrounds have
had poetry made accessible to them through the establishment of the Oxford
City Poet, encouraging their own creative writing and re-inspiring
teachers. These projects have directly improved the cultural and creative
life of Oxford and given a voice to those who would have been otherwise
Since its launch in 1998 The Poetry Centre has been the focus for
academic events, seminars and community projects related to the research
of Centre staff. This can be grouped into the following key areas:
translation and travel (Sampson); postcolonialism and diaspora (Flannery
and Matthews); English poetry and other cultures (Buxton, Matthews);
poetry and religion (Huk); and creative writing (Sampson and Clanchy).
Underpinning and linking many research outputs is a shared concern with
the connections between poetry and historically disadvantaged groups in
society. For example; poetry as a means of expression for those culturally
or politically-oppressed members of the community; the use of poetry to
mediate and to reflect upon social issues and crises; poetry as a means of
expressing, and exciting, social conscience and civic responsibility. This
research focus has meant that systematic external engagement has been
embedded in the research activity from the outset, with genuine knowledge
exchange, collaborations with non-academic individuals and organisations
and co-production of new work at the heart of the Centre.
The T.S. Eliot Prize short-listed poet, Sampson undertook an Arts &
Humanities Research (AHRC) funded Creative Fellowship at the Poetry
Centre, and its main output was the verse novel, The Distance Between
Us. Research for the novel included archival work in the History
Department's `Refugee Practitioners' collection, and the piece intersected
with the research outputs of other members of the Centre including,
Flannery3, Matthews4 and Huk.5
The Poetry Centre's open collaborative approach was exemplified in the
Centre's Poets and Refugees project in 2009, which evolved from
the research outputs of Buxton,1Sampson,2 Flannery3
and Matthews.4 Buxton, Matthews, and Flannery were the
principal researchers active in the project. Flannery's and Matthews'
publications both focus on postcolonial cultures, Ireland and Australia
respectively, and their knowledge of the politics, histories, poetics, and
critical theorizations of colonial and postcolonial cultures were key
informants of the project. Buxton's research on the poetics of place, and
communal and ethnic identities in Irish and transatlantic contexts,
further informed the thematics of the project.
The Poetry Centre has housed and facilitated the production,
dissemination and teaching of poetry and other forms of creative writing,6
and in tandem with research outputs in the areas of; diaspora, post
colonialism, and religious faith, the role and remit of the Oxford
City Poet was conceived. Research focused on ethnicity, migration
and displacement, cultural difference and social exclusion which fed
directly into the remit of the Oxford City Poet role. Collaboration
between the Poetry Centre, Oxford Brookes University and Oxford City
Council saw the appointment of Kate Clanchy to the position in July 2011.
Clanchy's work in disadvantaged schools across Oxford has built on the
research areas of the Poetry Centre, and projects have had lasting impacts
on the education and lives of students from migrant and culturally
marginal backgrounds. This work on immigration and migration has
continued, as evidenced in Clanchy's most recent publication, Meeting
the English (2013).
References to the research
1. Rachel Buxton, Robert Frost and Northern Irish Poetry, Oxford
University Press, 2004.
Submitted to RAE2008, Oxford Brookes University, UoA57- English
Language and Literature, RA2, RE Buxton, Output 1.
2. Fiona Sampson, The Distance Between Us, Seren, 2005.
Arts & Humanities Research Council, Creative Fellowship at Oxford
Brookes University, "Voice, authority and cultural translation in the
testimony of refugee clinicians to Britain 1930-1960", 2002-2005, Award
value £54,000, http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Funded-Research/Pages/Voice-authority-and-cultural-translation-in-the-testimony-of-refugee-clinicians-to-Britain-1930-1960.aspx
3. Eóin Flannery, Ireland and Postcolonial Studies: Theory,
Discourse, Utopia, Palgrave 2009.
Submitted to REF2014, Oxford Brookes University, UoA29- English
Language and Literature, REF2, EPW Flannery, Output identifier 5947.
4. Steven Matthews, Les Murray, Manchester University Press,
Submitted to RAE2008, Oxford Brookes University, UoA57- English
Language and Literature, RA2, SJ Matthews, Output 1.
5. Romana Huk, "Poetry and Religion" in A Concise Companion to
Postwar British and Irish Poetry, Nigel Alderman and C. D. Blanton,
eds., Oxford University Press, 2009, 221-42.
6. Kate Clanchy, Meeting the English, Picador, 2013.
Submitted to REF2014, Oxford Brookes University, UoA29- English
Language and Literature, REF2, KS Clanchy, Output identifier 9076.
Details of the impact
From its inception the Poetry Centre has sought to embed external impact
within its research by developing a symbiotic relationship between its
research and outreach activities. This has resulted in both wide-ranging
external impact and significant cross-fertilisation of ideas leading to
new research insights and outputs. Impacts have been:
- Conceptual — influencing thinking and ways of seeing important social
and economic issues.
- Instrumental — leading to tangible impacts such as the establishment
of a new Oxford City Poet role and new co-produced publications.
- Capacity building — providing a focus through events and opportunities
to encourage and support new writers from diverse cultural and
The Centre makes extensive use of digital media to ensure its research
reaches a global audience, with over 2700 subscribers worldwide from 50
countries, across its digital channels (Twitter, Facebook, a Weekly Poem
mailing list). From 31 July 2012 to 31 July 2013, there were over 12000
visits to the Centre's Website.7,8 The Poetry Centre maintains
a continuous lively and dynamic presence, through podcasts of poetry
readings, to providing resources and opportunities for interaction with
writers and researchers, publishing new centre research and highlighting
events and projects.
Specific Project Impact examples include:
Oxford Poets and Refugees Project 2008-2009
The work was driven by a concern with place and displacement, and migrant
experiences in a neo-colonial context. The project operated in
collaboration with Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource.
Oxford-based poets, including Bernard O'Donoghue, Jamie McKendrick and
Carole Angier, were teamed with 14 exiled and refugee writers. A series of
workshops explored and created new writing based on stories and
experiences of exile, leading to the writing of 43 new pieces of work and
the publication of an anthology, See How I Land (Heaventree Press,
2009). To date this has sold 1500 copies, raised £3000 for Asylum
Welcome, as well as making the public more aware of the charity. The
work was showcased at eight readings and events, including the Oxford
Literary Festival, `Freed Speech', a Poet in the City event at Amnesty
International's headquarters in London14, and an event at
Woodstock Bookshop which was attended by 90 schoolchildren.
The project produced high-quality literature and broke down some of the
perceived barriers between higher education, poetry, and the community.
The project gave a voice to those whose voices are seldom heard and
contributed to debates and awareness about the social inclusion of asylum
seekers, immigration, and refugees. The project was widely publicized in
local and national press, including in the Oxford Times 10
and Modern Poetry in Translation11. The project was
shortlisted in the `Excellence and Innovation in the Arts' category at the
2009 THE Awards.12 And a one-hour interview was
broadcast on BBC Radio Oxford on October 23rd 2009.13
Through these means, it reached over 6,500 people.
A trustee at Asylum Welcome, confirmed that `the project made
demonstrable impacts on both its participants and on local refugee,
public, and academic audiences'. For the refugee writers, she says, `the
project served as a vital source of self-confidence and actualization and
enabled them to communicate their stories, ideas and experiences in
creative forms. Other writers, already very well established in their
home-countries of Palestine and Afghanistan, gained access to writing,
publishing and media in the UK.'15
The Arts Council South East Literature Officer, 2003-2010, writes:
'Fulfilling one of the Arts Council's key aims of social inclusion, the
project helped demonstrate to readers and audiences that today's refugee
would probably be tomorrow's upstanding and hard-working citizen... The
exiled writers for the most part felt validated, accepted and better able
to live confidently in a difficult environment.' She added, `locally, they
can make a strong and influential impact, both for the participants and
the communities they live in, helping overcome prejudice on both sides of
The Oxford City Poet 2011-2013
The role of Oxford City Poet was established in 2011 as a direct result
of Poetry Centre research and undertaken in collaboration with Oxford City
Council. The Poetry Centre manages the role, most recently held by Kate
Clanchy. Clanchy has taken poetry out to a range of ethnic and migrant
communities in the Oxford area, encouraging the creation of new work by
schoolchildren from underprivileged educational and economic backgrounds
across the city.
The conceptual and capacity-building impact of the role has been praised
by the teachers involved. The Head of English at Cheney School, notes that
Clanchy `has a very clear drive to make poetry accessible to young people
from all backgrounds'.'17 A Cheney governor, states that
Clanchy's work `proved inspirational to the students who felt that their
efforts were being valued by a "real writer". This enabled the teaching
staff to better appreciate and foster the creative talents of their
students and has contributed to a shift of culture within the school.'18
He concluded that because the school library stocks the annual booklets of
the Writing Group's work, `other young people either aspire to see their
own writing in print, or to value creative writing, knowing it has been
achieved by their peers. In a school community as mixed as Cheney's, this
is of key importance in raising standards and aspirations and is a
positive outcome of Kate's encouragement of the Creative Writing Group.'18
Similarly, the Cultural Development Manager at Oxford City Council,
believes `The Poetry Centre's research and outreach expertise has been
crucial in creating and shaping the role of the City Poet and has had a
positive effect upon the cultural and creative life of Oxford,
particularly in respect to the ethnic diversity of participants and social
inclusion.' She felt that Clanchy's work as City Poet successfully
promoted the usefulness of creative writing in relation to literacy and
quality of life. The City Council's Culture Team is now supporting the
development of Writer Squads for young people in the city to build on this
The City Poet has also helped the City Council deliver on the objectives
of the Culture Strategy 2012-15, in particular with regards to sustaining,
developing and improving the cultural life of the city and improving
opportunities for young people to access and actively participate in
high-quality cultural activities.'19
According to the National Director of First Story, a national
literacy charity for deprived schoolchildren, the Oxford programme
`produces consistently excellent work from students of all abilities from
the gifted and talented to challenging and troubled students. She [Clancy]
has also engaged and re-inspired the teachers she works with and built
lasting and strong relations both with them and with the school as a
Sources to corroborate the impact
The extensive external impact of the Centre and the specific examples
mentioned can be corroborated in a number of ways, including direct
testimony; media mentions; and extensive altmetrics on the use of the
website, Twitter, Facebook usage and resource subscribers. Specific
indicative references are:
Website and Social Media:
- Oxford Brookes University Poetry Centre Website: http://poetry.brookes.ac.uk/
- Altmetrics for website usage and social media channels (12, 209 visits
to the Poetry Centre website between 31 July 2012 and 31 July 2013, and
at 31 July: 885 Twitter followers; 1019 subscribers to the Weekly Poem;
805 likes on Facebook): https://twitter.com/brookespoetry
Poets and Refugees Project:
- End of Grant Report submitted to Arts Council
Media highlights and reviews:
- Fran Bardsley, Oxford Times, 19 November 2008:
Modern Poetry in Translation, 3.12: http://www.mptmagazine.com/feature/see-how-i-land-oxford-poets-and-exiled-writers-31/
- Shortlisting for the `Excellence and Innovation in the Arts' category
at the 2009 THE Awards: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/408071.article
- BBC Radio Oxford interview with Yousif Qasmiyeh, 23 October 2009.
Poet in the City website: an audio interview with Bernard
O'Donoghue at the `Freed Speech' event which featured O'Donoghue, Yousif
Qasmiyeh, Jamie McKendrick, and Dawood:
- Corroborating statement author 1. Trustee, Asylum Welcome.
- Corroborating statement author 2. Arts Council South East Literature
Oxford City Poet:
- Correspondence with Head of English, Cheney School, Headington, Oxford
(Statement and details available from Oxford Brookes Research Support
office upon request)
- Corroborating statement author 3. Correspondence with Governor, Cheney
School, Headington, Oxford.
- Corroborating statement author 4. Correspondence with Cultural
Development Manager, Oxford City Council.
- Corroborating statement author 5. Correspondence with National
Director of First Story.
- English teacher and Director of the Cherwell School Creative Writing
Club (Statement and details available from Oxford Brookes Research
Support office upon request)