9 January 2023

Isobel Colchester is leaving Poet in the City this January after nine years as its CEO, prompting a recruitment search which will begin this month.

Isobel joined Poet in the City in 2014 and has developed the organisation's offer from a respected series of London events into a nationally renowned programme of productions, commissions and talent development in five cities, building a skilled team of eight cross-city staff and a network of freelancers along the way. Particular achievements include setting up and running the Poetry & Lyrics Festival for four years, initiating and developing what is now a sector-leading talent development programme for young producers, and establishing ambitious community-driven work with public libraries.

Isobel will leave Poet in the City at the end of January, when she will be joining Citizens Advice to lead on engagement and co-creation with the national network of charities. 

Lennie Goodings
, Chair of the Poet in the City board, said:

“Quite brilliantly, Isobel has taken Poet in the City from its origins as an innovative London poetry events charity to becoming an organisation that has trebled in size and is nationally recognised as a leading producer of poetry shows, community commissions and talent development. Her drive to make Poet in the City achieve something genuinely impactful for the communities we work with and unique in the arts will be her legacy. The Board and I thank her warmly for her work and commitment and wish her all the best for the future in her new job… Isobel leaves the organisation in great shape, with an impressive record of achievements, newly reconfirmed NPO status and a stretching new strategy to deliver”

On the news of her departure, Isobel said:

“Leading Poet in the City has been the privilege of my lifetime. I was given the opportunity to join this amazing organisation as CEO in my late 20s and was welcomed by a fantastic and supportive community. Since then, I've worked with many wonderful staff, volunteers, artists, trustees and partners and I have learnt so much from everyone. I am so proud of what we have achieved together - we have harnessed poetry as an inclusive and democratic art form which allows us to challenge and change dominant narratives and make space for people’s ideas and dreams. We've produced ambitious and joyful shows, supported young people to realise their aspirations as producers, and been invited into many communities to amplify their experiences in new ways. I am massively excited about the future of Poet in the City as our work enters a new phase at the intersection of community organising, policy-influence and arts production. I can't wait to see where a brilliant new leader will take us next.”

Cultural/community engagement specialist and former Director of Public Engagement for the Francis Crick Institute, Katie Matthews, has been appointed interim Chief Executive. She said:

“I’m delighted to be taking on this role with Poet in the City. This is an important moment for the organisation as, with its status as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation reconfirmed, it begins to roll out a new series of exciting events, commissions and programmes.”

Lennie Goodings added:

“We are delighted and so lucky to have Katie Matthews as our Interim CEO for the next eight months. She brings us fantastic experience, skills and passion; I know Poet in the City will be in excellent hands”    


A new permanent Chief Executive will be appointed by Poet in the City following a competitive selection process in Spring 2023.