What we do

We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.


In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known guests such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph. Each conversation takes place through the poem, uncovering our visitor’s love of the poem and the vital part it has played in their life. 


We maintain an ever-growing archive of poems as friends and the personal stories of connection shared with us by readers. We work collaboratively with a wide range of partners to create intimate live events and encounters with Poems as Friends that celebrate the unique power of poetry to bring us closer to ourselves and one another. This includes The Poetry Exchange Live - a stunning highlight of Latitude Festival 2019, which will be coming to other festivals around the UK in 2020 and beyond. 


Get in touch through our Contact Page


Listen to the podcast via our Listen Page

And be sure to visit our News & Events page for any upcoming events and opportunities to join us!




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Who we are

Our Team


Fiona Bennett

Founder & Artistic Director

Fiona is the founder and director of The Poetry Exchange. She is a poet and creative facilitator and her work has been featured in a wide range of journals in the UK, the USA and on BBC radio. She has designed and delivered artful interventions in organisational, community and education settings across the world and her collaborations include work with The National Theatre, New York University, Shakespeare’s Globe, Spread The Word and many more. She is co-director of The Map Consortium. The poem that has been a friend to Fiona is 'A Kite for Aibhín' by Seamus Heaney.


Michael Shaeffer

Associate Director

Michael Shaeffer is the Associate Director of The Poetry Exchange. Michael has been closely involved with TPE since its inception, bringing a multi-faceted practice in voice & performance to our conversations, readings & audio work. Michael's recent work in the theatre includes: A Very Expensive Poison; The Girl From The North Country; How To Hold Your Breath; Mr Burns; Table; London Road. His recent film & television credits include: London Road; London Fields; Trance; Rogue One and The ABC Murders. The poem that has been a friend to Michael is 'In Praise Of The Piano' by Helen Dunmore.


John Prebble


John Prebble is a creative producer, dedicated to poetry and the many ways it can speak to us in our lives. He was previously Relationship Manager, Literature at Arts Council England and Chief Executive at New Writing South. John is also a Relational Dynamics 1st qualified coach and Co-Director of Junction 7 Creatives in Stevenage. The poem that has been a friend to John is 'Ars Poetica #100: I Believe' by Elizabeth Alexander


Sally Anglesea

Marketing & Events Producer

Sally Anglesea is a writer, performer & creative producer. She works across multiple forms of new writing and has written and devised numerous productions that have required her to work closely with young people and communities, including with Clwyd Theatre Cymru, The Women's Equality Party, Salford University and Contact Theatre, Manchester. The poem that has been a friend to Sally is 'Wild Geese' by Mary Oliver.

Associate Artists

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The Poetry Exchange is proud to collaborate with a wide range of writers, performers, producers, audio and visual artists. Our Podcast Editor & Composer is Ben Hales. Our Associate Artists are: Hafsah Bashir, Sarah Butler, Victoria Field, Katharine Goda, Martin Heaney, Harry Jelley, Jacqueline Kington, Rebecca Manley, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Alex McIntyre, Sarah Salway, Alistair Snell, Degna Stone, Subhadassi and Andrea Witzke Slot.


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Dr Alison McManus

Alison McManus is the Chair of Trustees of The Poetry Exchange. She is Assistant Professor and Programme Co-ordinator for Business, Arts and Humanities Programmes at Durham Centre for Academic Development's award-winning Foundation Programme. The poem that has been a friend to Alison is 'Restlessness' by D.H. Lawrence.

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Roy McFarlane

Roy McFarlane was born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage and has spent most of his years living in Wolverhampton. He has held the role of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate, Starbucks’ Poet in Residence and Birmingham & Midland Institute’s Poet in Residence. Roy’s writing has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe, 2012), Filigree (Peepal Tree, 2018) and he is the editor of Celebrate Wha? Ten Black British Poets from the Midlands (Smokestack, 2011). He has two collections published by Nine Arches Press:  Beginning With Your Last Breath (2016) and The Healing Next Time (2018), which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. The poem that has been a friend to Roy is 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers' by Langston Hughes.