As a StAnza newbie, and a relative newbie to St Andrews itself, I was unsure what to expect when I signed up to volunteer at this year’s festival. Having worked at similar events in the past, I’ve found that there is often a fair amount of hierarchy involved: newcomers must come in at ground level and ‘earn their stripes’ over successive years in order to feel a real part of the team. Nothing could be further from the truth in StAnza’s case. Right from the get-go, I’ve felt welcomed, valued and had access to lots of great experiences.
My official role is as part of the Participant Liaison team. Made up of post-graduate and returning students, we ensure that the poets and performers feel welcome and looked after during their short time in our town. It is a really fun and varied role, one which can see you doing anything from escorting performers to their venues, fetching them a much-needed coffee (or beer, depending on how long a day it’s been...), overseeing book signings and sound checks or even just chatting over a drink as they unwind from a performance. I, for one, have experienced no diva-esque requests and each performer has seemed appreciative of the work we do.
Back in January when I first spoke with Eleanor Livingstone about getting involved with this year’s festival, I expressed my interest in helping out with some press work. I had done a fair amount on the student journalism scene during my undergraduate years and I was keen to build on this experience in a professional context. I was first put in touch with Sophie Patterson and Morag Wells, two fellow St Andrews students who’ve been part of the StAnza family for a number of years and together we devised a range of publicity and marketing ideas to help increase advertising outreach on the student scene: creating university-focused social media campaigns, plugging the festival in the key student media outlets and making connections with other universities’ literary societies.
During the festival itself, meanwhile, I’ve been equipped with an all-singing, all-dancing recording device in order to gather material for some podcasts. My last few days were spent brandishing my mike at anyone willing to talk to me (or too polite to say no to me.) Whether that’s interviewing a headlining poet, being given a private tour of exhibition by its artist or just accosting an unsuspecting audience member over their soup, I’ve found no shortage of inspiring people to speak with. That’s the wonderful thing about StAnza: in any nook or cranny, whether performer or visitor, you’re sure to find an erudite and passionate person whose story you’d be happy to listen to.
Centre photo by Chris Scott
Originally from the North-East, Lyndsey (23) graduated from Durham University in 2011 with an English degree and after spending a year working and travelling, came to St Andrews to study for an MLitt in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture.
StAnza's podcasts, including interviews and extracts from readings, will be made available in the next few weeks and months at www.stanzapoetry.org