StAnza on film: the story behind our 2012 documentary

Wednesday 22 August 2012

On 20 August, StAnza officially launched its new documentary film of this year’s festival. The film has recently been previewed on YouTube, Facebook and has been uploaded on StAnza’s website, but this was the first time it had been screened in front of a live audience: during the ‘St Andrews Year of Celebration’ showcase at Creative Scotland, Waverley Gate.

The project had its beginnings when Eleanor Livingstone, Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival commissioned the filmmaker Daniel Warren to make a short documentary of the 2012 festival. The festival is grateful for the help of EventScotland who provided funding.

‘We wanted to capture the essence of the festival on film, to give a flavour of how lively and diverse it can be, in the stunning setting of St Andrews,’ Eleanor says. ‘With our vibrant hub at the Byre Theatre, StAnza has a unique, welcoming atmosphere and the film is a visual record of that.’

Daniel came to St Andrews for the festival (which took place 14-18 March) and, with the assistance of Ishbel Beeson, filmed poets in live readings and performances, on stage and behind the scenes. He interviewed poets, artists, musicians and festival-goers, took in the sights and sounds of the town itself and the result was an intriguing insight into the festival.

The film is structured as ‘a day in the life of StAnza’, opening with the arrival of visitors at the rail station of Leuchars. The camera takes the viewer around town and through many events from art exhibitions, an open mic in a local café, to centre stage readings and performances and talks by, among others, Jackie Kay, Jo Bell,  actor Karen Dunbar, Kwame Dawes, Tony Curtis and Robin Cairns. As the sun goes down, the party atmosphere at the Byre gets – literally – into full swing with music from the Mending Hearts Trio.

Poetry turns up in unexpected guises: on Poetry Digest’s biscuits and bananas, as labels attached to whisky bottles in Ken Cockburn and Alec Finlay’s collaboration, The Road North, and slowly appearing under the chisel of patient stone carver John Neilson. Then there’s the bartender who bursts into a recitation of Tam O’ Shanter; poetic ‘Clanger speak’ from Andy Jackson during the launch of his TV and film inspired anthology, and slam champion Robin Cairns. The film shows how poetry can inspire other art forms, and become by turns humorous, experimental, crowd pleasing, celebratory and thought-provoking.

Eleanor Livingstone says of the film: ‘The title is taken from a story told by Jackie Kay during her performance. Her son, on hearing that his mother was “going out to the poetry’’, used to ask where this place called poetry was. StAnza – and St Andrews - she joked was certainly one of these places. The film successfully captures the humour, charm and the sense of community created by StAnza and by St Andrews.’

You can view the film on StAnza’s website: http://www.stanzapoetry.org/

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