Professor Simon Armitage visits Harrow

Professor Simon Armitage is one of Britain’s leading poets and writers, as well as being a novelist, lyricist and broadcaster. He visited Harrow from 15th to 16th October to open the school library, named in his honour, and to conduct a series of workshops.

His poems have featured on A level and IGCSE syllabuses for many years. Very much a man from northern England, or more specifically Yorkshire, he is Professor of Poetry at Leeds University and, in a dramatic demonstration of his reputation as a contemporary poet, elected to the highly prestigious position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 2015. Professor Armitage has won numerous literary awards, and has also appeared amongst the best-seller lists. His acclaimed translation of the medieval English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, has sold a remarkable number of copies worldwide. Probably his most popular works to date are his two memoirs, Walking Home and Walking Away, where he wanders through Britain as a modern-day troubadour.

The Simon Armitage Library was officially opened on Sunday, 15th October, in what was an inspirational evening of culture and conversation, kicking off Professor Armitage’s two day visit to Harrow. The evening started with a reception party and invited guests, including British Consul-General, John Edwards, were treated to wonderful performance from the Prep and Senior School choirs, who sang a series of songs, all with a literary-inspired theme. Professor Armitage then gave an address, telling guests and pupils his thoughts on the role of a library and the influence it can have on a school, explaining how he saw libraries as “a passport for a child’s imagination”. Professor Armitage then read his poem Zoom before unveiling the plaque naming the library in his honour. The evening was a special occasion which opened the library in a fitting manner.

Monday at Harrow was a day for the pupils. Professor Armitage was joined by the Hong Kong-based Mr Nury Vittachi, and together they produced a series of workshops for pupils in the Prep and Senior Schools. Some focused on the IGCSE and A level syllabuses, whilst others focused simply on the idea of writing creatively. The day ended with both authors hosting ‘An afternoon with…’, where a selection of their works, anecdotes and thoughts were heard from a staff and pupil audience including guests from YCIS and SUIS. The afternoon of questions and answers concluded with a warm round of applause with Professor Armitage and Mr Vittachi leaving having perhaps influenced some of the next generation of writers.