How to Clap and Drink Wine at the Same Time: James at the #StAnza14 launch

Thursday 6 March 2014

There are three integral ingredients to a launch party: celebs, wine, and applause. All well and good, but there is a fundamental problem with this formula—how on Earth are you supposed to clap and carry wine glasses at the same time?

If you balance the glass on one arm while you clap, it will surely spill. If you put the glass down, 8/10 times you will lose it. And if, worst of all, you attempt to clap with one hand, you risk looking like you are being victimised by your own personal mosquito. Well hold on to your hats wine glasses, for I am proud to be able to present to you a cast-iron solution to this centuries-old quandary.

All three elements were StAnza's Festival Exhibitions Launch last night in the recently re-opened Byre Theatre, so it makes for a good case study.

The first ingredient is celebrity. Contemporary poetry isn't exactly known for its Justin Beibers and Katie Prices, but where poetic celebrity is to be found it's probably lurking at StAnza. (As Louis de Bernières quipped at the launch, "If it weren't for my agent saying she doesn't do poetry, I wouldn't have a house." He went on, of course, to write Captain Corelli's Mandolin.) I don't know about you, but personally glad it was Louis de Bernières, Brian Turner and Jenny Lewis who gave short readings at the launch, rather than the Beibs.

Ingredient two was provided by our wonderful caterers. They are a family-run local business who have been impressing everyone with their spicy soup recipes, but as far as the launch went only two dishes were required: red and white. (There was also orange juice.)


The final ingredient is applause, which was generously provided by the audience. This is Eleanor Livingstone's tenth year at StAnza, and she has gathered together a truly scintillating programme in ten languages, so it was not hard to gather in the claps for the occasion. Factor in the delight of all at StAnza's return to the Byre Theatre after its sad closure during last year's festival, and there was many a whoop or cheer to be had.

Anyway, I think you've been convinced by now that my need to applaud while holding a wine glass was at an all-time high last night. I tried passing my wine glass to an innocent bystander, but they just looked at me funny. I tried putting it in my pocket (having drunk it first), but it wouldn't fit. That was when I noticed the solution, like a magic-eye picture snapping into place.

A middle-aged couple, whom I recognise as StAnza regulars but unfortunately don't know personally, were standing next to each other, wine glasses in left and right hands respectively. So far so unremarkable, but they were hitting their free hands together between them, forming successive high fives and a most satisfying clapping noise.

This, then, is the secret to attending launch parties. Teamwork.

Unmarried as I am, I could only stand by and peer into the bliss. But now I have shared this secret solution with you, I can only expect that a few happy couples will form among this year's attendees, and that thereby the poets' deserved applause will sound even louder.

I'll be wittering nonsense throughout the festival in person, on this here blog, over at @stanzapoetry and #StAnza14, and of course at my HQ @empowermint. Do come and join in the fun.