StAnza: The Organisation

Image of theatre building at night, outside looking in.

David Vallis Photography

StAnza's mission is to celebrate poetry, to bring poetry to audiences and to enable encounters with poetry. The organisation works all year round to deliver poetry events and projects in Scotland and beyond.

StAnza’s main focus is our annual festival in St Andrews each spring. Now recognised as one of the leading poetry festivals in the UK and Europe, StAnza has over the years featured a strong list of contemporary poets from within Scotland and also from across the UK and the rest of the world. StAnza has brought a range of major poets to the festival, commissioned art works from leading artists, featured both past and present Poet Laureates, and has showcased poets from over 50 countries worldwide.

Drawing by Jenny Soep from StAnza 2008 programme

StAnza also actively promotes readings in foreign or minority languages and has featured poets reading in many of the national languages of Europe, as well as in regional languages and dialects. We regularly include Gaelic and Scots language poets.

StAnza is very much a cross-arts festival with poetry at its core. As well as readings, the festival features performances, in conversations, an annual lecture, workshops and masterclasses, films and video projections, children’s events, stand-up sessions and a range of exhibitions and installations. Music, drama, comedy, dance, contemporary circus and regular digital events have all played a part in the festival in recent years. Full lists of all previous festival participants can be seen in the past participants section of the site archives, at the Previously at StAnza page.

The StAnza festival was conceived in 1997 by three St Andrews-based poets, Brian Johnstone, Anna Crowe and Gavin Bowd, the first two of whom continue to be involved in the organisation. The first festival was launched on National Poetry Day in 1998. StAnza continued to take place each October until its relaunch as a spring festival in 2003, from which time it has been held annually in March. All previous festival programmes can be seen in the past programmes section of the site archives.

'Tools of the Trade' book and headphones, as part of audio-installation

Helena Fornells

The festival highlights over the years have been many and varied, from Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s appearances in 1998 and 2010 to our contemporary project, the digital Poetry Map of Scotland. In 2007 we celebrated ten years of StAnza with our 100 Poets Gathering; and our 2009's Distant Voices virtual festival webcast to 68 countries was a world first. As part of our participation in Homecoming Scotland 2009, the festival was launched by then First Minister Alex Salmond, leading to the festival being shortlisted for a Scottish Thistle Award.

StAnza’s spring festival has now grown to be recognised as the major poetry event in Scotland, attracting audiences from across the country and beyond. It is one of the principal poetry festivals with a nationwide reputation operating in the UK and has been recognised as a major European festival of poetry through its involvement with the international poetry festivals’ network based in Berlin. StAnza is also a founder member of Bookfestival Scotland, the professional association of Scottish literary festivals established in 2009.
StAnza also delivers schools and community workshops and projects throughout the year, as well as stand-alone events in St Andrews and elsewhere, and multiple digital projects.

Frisian and Scots poetry installed on a mirror in the theatre foyers, in which the reflections of people can also be seen

Frisian and Scots poetry at StAnza 2018: David Vallis photography

Organisational developments saw StAnza becoming a registered charity in 2001. In 2003 the organisation was reformed as a charitable company limited by guarantee under a board of trustees to whom the paid officials—the Festival Director, Artistic Director and Press & Media Manager—were directly responsible. In 2010 the staffing of StAnza was restructured with the appointment of the current Festival Director who is now supported by a Press & Media Manager, Programme Co-ordinator and Education Co-ordinator, and from 2010 StAnza developed a year round programme of schools, community and public events and projects. StAnza is an Inland Revenue recognised charity.

The festival is put together by the Festival Director and Programme Co-ordinator supported by a planning committee formed of volunteers drawn from the local, student and academic communities who help to plan, organise and develop the programme, meeting throughout the year and chaired by the Festival Director. The committee is supported by various voluntary educational, legal and financial advisors.

PDF icon StAnza's Privacy Notice.pdf

StAnza funding, from the festival's inception in 1998, has been received principally from the Scottish Arts Council and their successor agency, Creative Scotland. This has increased steadily over the years. Regular funding contributions have been received from Fife Council and, since 2003, from various sections of The University of St Andrews. StAnza received funding to contribute in 2009 to Homecoming Scotland, and thereafter received funding from EventScotland. The festival is, however, fully independent of all of these organisations.

StAnza - Scotland's Poetry Festival - is a private company limited by guarantee and registered under the Companies Acts (Registered No. SC253342). Recognised by the Inland Revenue as a Scottish Charity (Charity No. SC 031789). StAnza is a fully independent festival funded by Creative Scotland, with contributions from Fife Council and the University of St Andrews.