StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival is already being hailed as one of the ‘best ever’, despite the challenges faced when its hub venue, the Byre Theatre closed.
The festival, based in the Town Hall and other venues in St Andrews, welcomed over 78 poets, plus over 30 artists, writers, actors, filmmakers and performers and ran over 100 events: the final one, a Centre stage reading by Robin Robertson and Paula Meehan crowned a vibrant and exciting festival.
Over five days poetry spilled on to the streets of St Andrews: models wearing ‘poetry dresses’ visited the clothes shops in the town to show how the embroidered lace panels in their outfits hid special sensors which produced audio poems on being touched. Pink wigged poetry postie Sally Crabtree cycled through the town delivering poems. Vinyl panels of verse were on display in shop windows and a new digital poetry trail was launched that celebrates the poetry of place: visitors can hear contemporary poets read their poems at places connected to the poems by scanning the QR codes to be found there. The festival themes were Legacy & Place, Designs on Poetry and a focus on Welsh poetry.
StAnza’s powerful effect was evident immediately after the launch on 6 March when guest speaker Lesley Riddoch, continued to talk about poetry (and connections between Scotland and the Welsh language) afterwards on Twitter. Highlights of this lively and engaging festival included Liz Lochhead and Gillian Clarke, National Poets of Scotland and Wales respectively, the humour and wit of John Hegley and Jacob Sam-la Rose, Canadian poet Erín Moure and Singapore poet Alvin Pang, and the Poetry Breakfast discussions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings which were webcast live.
Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone said, ‘With the closure of the Byre Theatre, the first question was whether we could hold the festival to the standard of excellence that we intended. It seemed to be enough of a challenge to do that. But we really have gone one better, producing a festival that audiences have been saying is the best ever. We have enjoyed enormous goodwill from our funders and supporters, and partners and friends in St Andrews and beyond. Above all we have had the faith and support of our participants, the StAnza organisation, including an army of volunteers, and most importantly our audience. I’m delighted that it has proved to such a brilliant success.’
Image: Artist Anja Hertenberger and models of the Lace Sensor Dresses