Welcome on Board (pun intended)

Thursday 1 July 2021, 16:30
StAnza is thrilled to announce the appointment of four new Trustees to our Board, following a successful open-recruitment call. We also wish to take the chance to thank our outgoing trustees for many years of wonderful service to the festival.
StAnza co-founder Anna Crowe is amongst those departing, alongside Maureen Jack, Shona Munro, Kathryn Ross and Bob Steel. We cannot thank them enough for the energy, time and commitment they have provided over the years, and wish them well in whichever new ventures they become involved!
Yet while we are sad to see such stalwarts of StAnza go, we couldn't have been more pleased with the calibre of applicant we received, and to now welcome Lewis Camley, Marjorie Lotfi, Jane Feaver and Erin McElhinney to StAnza (a new treasurer will be appointed later this summer). As the biographies below illustrate, they bring a vast amount and range of collective and individual skills and experience, which we don't doubt will prove invaluable during exciting times of transition and change at StAnza, and as we look towards and beyond our 25th anniversary festival in 2022.
Welcome! Fàilte! Hailsin!

Lewis Camley

Lewis is a young professional with ten years’ experience working in arts organisations across Scotland, including The Byre Theatre in St Andrews, and in his current role of 5 years as the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Marketing Manager. At EIBF he contributed to the Festival’s successful digital pivot in 2020 by research, collaboration and initiating online engagement, drawing on his own interests as a digital native. Within the Marketing team he leads the community engagement work, which focuses on bringing arts events and opportunities to deprived areas of Scotland. A devotee of StAnza since his undergraduate days in St Andrews, Lewis says: ‘I admire StAnza’s approach to inclusive, international programming, its commitment to poets, and its deep connection to the local community as well as a global audience. I bring the expertise and energy to supplement and develop these aspects of the Festival.’


Dr Jane Feaver

During the 1990s Jane was Assistant Poetry Editor at Faber and Faber and maintains connections with several of the Estates of Faber poets. In 2001, she joined Farms for City Children in Devon. She was taken on initially to raise the £350-£400,000 needed each year, but after six months was promoted to Chief Executive, with continuing responsibility for fundraising and responsibility for about 60 staff. After 5 years she left to work on her writing, and was awarded a PhD from the University of Exeter, remaining a Trustee of FCC. She became a programmer of Dartmoor’s biennial literary festival, Chagword, which received grant funding from Arts Council England, regularly turning a profit. She has recently been a Trustee of Kneehigh Theatre, with special responsibility for equality and diversity. Now living in Edinburgh, and having recently published her fourth novel, Jane feels she ‘could make a committed contribution based on the experience I’ve had, in the literary world and as a Trustee on other charitable boards.’


Marjorie Lotfi

Marjorie is the co-founder, Development Director and Board Member of Open Book, a charity that works in community settings across Scotland, using literature to create human connections and amplify marginalized voices. She has proven experience leading third-sector organisations in the areas of strategy, development and delivery, building on a background in engagement and New York corporate law. A poet herself, she draws on personal experience of leaving Iran as a child to help others develop their own voices. She will be stepping down from her current role as Chair of the Wigtown Festival Company Board. Marjorie says that ‘in addition to attending StAnza as an audience member, I’ve read my own work as part of a showcase, been a poet on the TheoArtistry project, led a public writing workshop, run schools workshops several years, and brought our Open Book readers to events. I’ve been involved with StAnza in a variety of roles and am now keen to support its work’ by joining the Board.


Erin McElhinney

Erin is the CEO of Truffle Pig, a fundraising and organisational development consultancy. She has worked in the arts and third sector in Scotland for just over 20 years, holding a wide variety of roles – arts journalist; event producer; head of digital and marketing; literature officer with Creative Scotland and now fundraiser – across several artforms: performing arts, literature, theatre, film and digital. She has been an EDI advocate in her personal and professional life for many years, for instance working on the Glasgow Women’s Library on the Equality in Progress project. Erin also offers digital and professional fundraising experience to StAnza, and remarks that ‘Despite being perceived as “small”, the festival’s reach is impressive, with a commitment to using an international lens that brings enormous value to the poetry scene in Scotland; whilst the enthusiastic embracing of cross-artform projects is progressive and exciting.’

Categories: News

Poetry in the Garden with Jayne Wilding

Wednesday 30 June 2021, 16:52

We're thrilled to announce that our live 'Poetry in the Garden' reading, which had to be postponed in March has now been rescheduled for the end of July!

Poetry in the Garden with Jayne Wilding

Saturday 31 July, 2:30 – 3pm, free but ticketed

St Andrews Heritage Museum Garden (entrance via South Castle Street)

Headshot of Jayne Wilding, standing in front of a rock, wearing a wooly hatOver the course of the past 18 months, many of us have come to appreciate our relationship with the natural world more than ever. During this outdoor reading in the St Andrews Heritage Museum Gardens, we will hear from Jayne Wilding, a poet for whom this experience has been particularly keenly felt: 'Nature has wrapped her arms around me and held me throughout the past year. The gift of the pandemic has been to come into a deeper appreciation of the body and the healing power of nature. I will be reading poems celebrating this love affair with the natural world.'

Following the reading, we’ll also be raising our keep-cups and water bottles to StAnza’s outgoing director, Eleanor Livingstone!

Do come dressed for the weather, and be considerate of social distancing guidelines. Tickets are available here.


Jayne Wilding is a poet, writer and yoga teacher who lives and writes in the East Neuk of Fife. Her parents were mountaineers and as a child she spent time a good deal of time in the mountains. She is passionate about the healing power of the elements and nature. Her collection In the Moon’s Pantry was published by diehard Press in 2004; her pamphlet sky blue notebook from the Pyrenees was joint runner-up for the 2009 Callum Macdonald Poetry Award.

This event is supported by the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature fund.

This event depends on government regulations and guidance in force on 31 July. It will be delivered in association with venues or partners who are committed to being fully Covid-19 safe and Covid-19 compliant. All audience members should observe and comply with appropriate social distancing and other hygiene precautions. However, and notwithstanding the foregoing, participation undertaken by participants and audience members at their own risk. StAnza cannot accept any liability in respect of Covid-19 safely compliance by participants, members of the public or others or any incidence of infection amongst those choosing to participate in or engage with StAnza events.


Categories: News

Renga City

Tuesday 18 May 2021, 13:51

A guest blog post by Bill Herbert, of the Dundee Renga -- who StAnza collaborated with in February to create a crowd-sourced renga.

1. Jo (How it all began)

i. The circumstances

The Dundee renga has been going for a year noo, and recently we teamed up with StAnza to extend the idea to a wider (world-wider!) constituency, so this seemed like an opportune moment to reflect on what exactly we have done. Beginning with what, exactly, is the Dundee renga? Well, what it has become is a group-generated collaborative poem based on the old Japanese form, generating twenty brief verses a month and involving around thirty writers from Dundee and thereaboots, posted online for aa tae see at the Gude & Godlie Ballatis website, here.

I like projects that appear to arrive on a whim from nowhere, which are content to use the materials immediately to hand - the punk equivalent of the old Hollywood musicals trope of ‘let’s do the show right here!’ I suspect my affection comes more from the way this feeling of randomness resembles the internal spark of inspiration, but occurs socially, as if already a collaboration. If such projects take off, it feels like this moment partakes of the idea of synchronicity, the apparently meaningful coincidence, after which, hopefully, we can all take pleasure in the way they go on to generate actual meaning.

That’s how most of my collaborative projects have kicked off, from random encounters with future co-editors or co-translators to the political poetry blog, New Boots and Pantisocracies, which arose from a few (terrible) puns exchanged online with Andy Ching, linking Ian Dury with Coleridge and leading to six years of postings so far.

Similarly, a couple of Dundee-based haiku written and posted online by the academic, local history librarian, and folklore guru, Erin Farley, led to us wondering if a geographically-fixed renga could be generated by building an email group and asking them to write a verse a day for twenty days every month. (Yes. It could.)

ii. Background

I first took part in a renga sometime in the late 90s/early 00s when Alec Finlay led a day-long session in the Baltic in Newcastle. I then led another session in 2003 at his invitation as the kyaku, or guest poet, who writes the hokku, or opening verse, when we all met in the (reconstruction of the) Centurion’s House in Arbeia, the Roman fort which sits just across the Tyne from me in South Shields. I remember Eck plugging a kettle into an anachronistic power point to make a pot of sencha, just as he had in the Baltic, but with a somewhat different feel. That renga formed part of a chain written along Hadrian’s Wall, published as Writing on the Wall. My opener was

That gull could be cloud,
Lowry, a legionary:
its wing refuses.


I also remember being delighted that we managed to fit in a line of Virgil from Book 9 of The Aeneid as copied out (wrongly) by an unknown Roman child* and found at the fort at Vindolanda: ‘interea pavidam volitans pinnata per urbem’ -- the next lines make it clear that this is a tragic passage about a death in battle: ‘nuntia Fama ruit matrisque adlabitur auris/Euryali…’. (ll. 473–475, rendered in Dryden’s translation as: ‘Soon hasty fame thro' the sad city bears/The mournful message to the mother's ears.’) This was of course in the same year as the invasion of Iraq.

It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that the renga is capable of capturing complex layers of histories and cultures in just this way, the surrounding immediacies and keen observations of several individual minds, and turning them into a singular something, simultaneously capturing and enacting a quality I have come to focus on more and more over the twenty odd years since my first renga: ephemerality.

By that long Greek polysyllable, I’m gesturing at the universe of meanings the Japanese poets contained in terms like okashi (delight), aware (perception of transience), sabi (impersonal loneliness), or karumi (lightness) -- each of which would require a separate article to articulate. But I only mean that, in Larkin’s phrase, ‘Days are where we live’.

A newspaper is ephemeral -- in Greek it is, literally, εφημερίδα, ‘for a day’ - but as a way of approaching the day they represent, newspapers provide a unique combination of major and minor news, cultural summation and trivia, cartoons and games. Indeed, as Erin Farley has admirably discussed, for many years they contained poetry, often (and not only in Dundee) of a politically radical nature. We might read them from cover to cover, keeping clippings of everything that interests us, or we might not. Then the next day we might buy another one, or we might not.

Renga are a sort of newspaper of the soul, but not in the sense of the individual soul - rather, in their attention to both the inner and the outer, to phenomena and epiphenomena, and their grasp of the transformative impact of imagery or vocabulary, they capture the metaphysics of a social territory or milieu or, as here, a city. Whether they report on it or embody it is another question (see part 2).

Read parts two (Ha) and three (Kyū) of Bill Herbert's article will be published on Bill blog.

*But note a possible, less innocent reading here from Peter Kruschwitz.

Categories: News

Remembering Brian Johnstone

Saturday 8 May 2021, 21:25

Brian Johnstone, photo by Al Buntin

(c) Al Buntin

We have learned with much sadness of the death this week of Brian Johnstone. He was one of StAnza’s founders and a major figure in this organisation’s history, as well as being an acclaimed poet in his own right, recognised internationally through his readings overseas and translations of his poetry.

Brian was already well known in Scottish poetry circles for his own writing and as an events organiser when he helped deliver the first StAnza festival in St Andrews in 1998. As festival director from 2000 to 2010 he led StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, from its modest beginnings to recognition as a leading international festival and a major fixture on the Scottish cultural calendar. After he stepped down from this role in 2010 to concentrate on his own writing, he continued to support and encourage StAnza, serving as a Consultant from 2010 until 2013 and remaining a StAnza member until his death. In 2015, in recognition of his contribution to the organisation, he was appointed Honorary President. StAnza owes Brian a huge debt and he is remembered with fondness and gratitude by those at StAnza who worked with him from 1997 until 2020.

Anna Crowe was another of StAnza’s co-founders. She recalls what a pleasure and privilege it was for her to work alongside Brian and Gavin Bowd to plan a new Scottish poetry festival.

“From the very beginning Brian, who had a lot of experience in organising poetry readings, had ambitious hopes for what has become StAnza (the cunningly-spelled title was his idea, as was the logo). I was keen to make the festival international in scope, and Brian had the vision and energy to see how this could be achieved. He quickly saw that it would be crucial to the festival’s success to involve the new Byre Theatre built in 2001, and to make it our hub, and he used his gifts of persuasion to convince the theatre management of this new idea, namely that poetry would in fact bring big audiences. Following advice to make the festival independent of the University, we were able to attract our own funding, and Brian had a tremendous gift for persuading people to back StAnza. This was because he believed in it so strongly and funders recognised that commitment and were brought on board. Brian was a man of great generosity and human warmth, with a gift for making friends. With his artist wife, Jean, he welcomed many visiting poets to their house in the Fife countryside. He was a dedicated poet with a distinctive voice and passion for memorialising what others might overlook. His interest in music and art led him into fruitful collaboration. Brian will always be remembered as the man who made StAnza happen.”

Drew Clegg, one of StAnza's trustees, has known Brian from their student days and recalls Brian’s early experience organising events:

“When he was an undergraduate Brian was Entertainments Convenor at the university and in that role he brought Pink Floyd to St Andrews. Back then you might have seen the Floyd in London at the Roundhouse or in Paris or Berlin but St Andrews? Brian charmed them and they came and in that youthful moment we can see the quintessential Brian Johnstone. You aim high. You do the best you can do. You fetch the finest poets and artists in the contemporary world out of their usual metropolitan haunts and persuade them to come to Scotland, to the kingdom of Fife, to St Andrews. One among those ‘ finest poets ‘ is himself. He owns a reputation that will grow and grow that he might say with the wee stammering Roman poet Horace ‘Non omnis moriar’ – I’m not all dead. And poetry was but one of Brian’s superbly honed skills. He was a first rate photographer and the detail in his poems, little things caught in a rare light, things most of us would never even notice, is a consequence of the countless creative hours he spent behind the lens. He had been a primary school teacher and by a wonderful example of contingency two of the nurses who cared for him latterly had been in his class. They told how he had been an inspirational figure in their schooldays. All of us who were privileged to know him will not be surprised to hear that said of Brian. The man remains a marvel.

“After a long illness borne with grace he’s gone but has left us with such memories, such poems to read again and again, and of course StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, an enduring legacy for those of us still here and innumerable generations yet to come. Non omnis moriar indeed!"

Brian and Jean JohnstoneEleanor Livingstone worked with Brian as Artistic Director and from 2010 as his successor as Festival Director. Brian’s wide knowledge of poetry, his commitment to StAnza and his ambition for it were the inspiration for her own involvement. He devoted huge amounts of time and energy to the festival and this enthusiasm was catching. His love of music and visual art shaped the inclusion of cross-arts element at the festival which became one of its unique features. Eleanor found him an excellent mentor.

“I learned so much from Brian that was essential in my various roles. I was fortunate in inheriting the relationships he had established – with funders and partners, with venues and the many businesses whose cooperation underpinned the festival’s success – and the procedures and processes he had designed and initiated. It was instructive and rewarding to work with him; he approached the challenges and choices which we encountered with flexibility and insight. And it was also fun – Brian was always great company. By encouraging my involvement with StAnza, Brian gave me an opportunity which changed my life. I will always be grateful for his generous and unfailing support up to and including for this year’s festival, even as his health was failing.”

Robyn Marsack speaks on behalf of StAnza’s Board of Trustees.

“Brian continued to be a genial presence at the Festival after handing over to Eleanor, putting his experience and his vast knowledge of poets and poetry at StAnza's disposal. Free of his director's responsibilities, he was glad to focus on his own work – in prose, poetry and musical collaborations – and indeed launched a new collection in April, The Marks on the Map, when dozens of friends were gathered online to celebrate the occasion. He will be greatly missed, but his hospitable spirit and devotion to poetry will live on in StAnza.”

We offer our deepest sympathy to Jean and Brian’s family and many friends in their loss: 'Always the bough is breaking / heavy with fruit or snow.'


Categories: News

A Call for StAnza Trustees

Friday 26 March 2021, 11:50

StAnza, Scotland’s unique international poetry festival, is looking for new members to join the Board of Trustees. Having delivered a very successful online festival this year, StAnza is at an exciting time in its development, entering a changed and challenging arts environment under its new Festival Director, Lucy Burnett.

We are aiming for inclusivity, richness of experience and diversity to ensure a StAnza Board of Trustees that reflects the diversity of contemporary society. We would expect applicants to have an active interest in poetry, whether as writers or readers.

With the retirement of several Trustees, we are looking for particular skills to refresh the Board’s range:

  • experience of and interest in the digital environment, especially as a ‘digital native’
  • experience of developing equalities, diversity and inclusion action
  • experience of fundraising
  • dealing with environmental issues in an arts context.

And we are looking to fill two posts:

  • Vice-Chair – with a view to taking over as Chair in 2022
  • Shadow Treasurer – again with a view to taking on this post in 2022.

The Board meets 4/5 times a year, generally alternating between St Andrews and Edinburgh, although currently meeting by Zoom. It is chaired by Dr Robyn Marsack, who would welcome inquiries from those interested in joining the Board. Full information is available in the Trustees’ pack, available here.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Categories: News

A ‘visit’ from the Edinburgh Literary Salon

Friday 19 March 2021, 14:07

Our final guest editors, the Edinburgh Literary Salon share some of their highlights of the festival -- many of which you can enjoy in our Events Archive until 31 March!

When we, at the Edinburgh Literary Salon, took tentative steps into staging our monthly meetings (usually held in an upstairs room in a central Edinburgh bar) online, we didn’t realise what a task it would be. Choosing the best ‘virtual’ platform, attracting an audience, and being au fait enough with technology to cope with glitches: this was the very definition of ‘learning curve.’

StAnza was the last arts festival we attended in 2020 before the world locked down. It gave them a year to prepare for the possibility of holding online events in 2021. Audiences have got the hang of ‘zooming’ and given what we’ve all been though, people make allowances if things are silky-smooth.

Yet it must be said that StAnza has been ahead of this curve for some time, providing online content, finding ways of reaching out across the globe, and with ever-creative presentations. There’s something about poetry that allows, or even encourages innovation. There’s also something about the ethos of StAnza that embraces equality, diversity and inclusion. This year’s festival was destined to be different, but no less exciting and embracing than usual.

Our first delve into the programme was the YouTube channel where there was more than just a tease for the week to come. Besides the early rounds of the Poetry Slam, there were several amusing videos of StAnza volunteers pointing out that we’re spared the trek to St Andrews, dodging the rain while darting between events, and awkward conversations in the queues for the loos. All the same, that sense of excitement (and slightly silly humour) was there; a bitter-sweet reminder that we would miss the special ‘atmosphere’ the place brings to StAnza.

But as Jackie Kay once said, StAnza is a place called poetry. Poetry, in all its richness and variety, was on display in the Festival Launch Extravaganza. This was more-than just a taster of what was to come – it was a feast. We saw Courtney Conrad, Guest Poet at our January Salon (courtesy of StAnza) and another friend of the Literary Salon, Russell Jones – both had events we would want to drop into.

We were reminded of online exhibitions, plus illustrated poetry, music, and how translation and international elements are key to StAnza. Parallels, contrasts, and connections exist, and even though we’re in lockdown (“Bugger,” said Jane Longhurst from the 40th Parallel in Tasmania!) we are nonetheless a ‘virtual poetry community.’ Most important is that much is still available online to enjoy for the rest of March – we will certainly be re-visiting the virtual riches of 2021.

Another advantage of StAnza online is the option to dip into events during the working day, at breakfast, morning break, lunch-hour, or tea. On Monday lunchtime Marina Kazakova gave a fascinating talk on ‘symphonic poetry’, exploring the link between music, poetry, and film. At Meet the Artists on Wednesday we were treated to a diversity of tongues from our own isles, connecting the languages of Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Although internet connectivity provided challenges for some participants, this zoom-conversation led by Peter Mackay/Padraig MacAoidh fell together very well.

Poetry Centre Stage events often showcase contrasting poets and styles. On Wednesday, Polish poet Adam Zagajewski gave a no-frills reading that put his poetry in the spotlight. Conversely, Edinburgh’s Russell Jones pulled out all the stops, divulging poetry’s relation and place in sci-fi, and through comics, and illustration – all making this a varied and vibrant presentation. As Russell said, crossing genres seemed to fit with this year’s theme of crossing borders, finding new ways of reaching audiences.

Sticking with Edinburgh poets, while being transported to the Fife Coastal Path (and sometimes, beyond), the Thursday lunchtime Poetry Walk was led by Helen Boden. While locked down ‘beyond Edinburgh’ in her Pentlands home, Helen put together a selection of words and pictures that certainly whetted the walkers appetite for post-restriction days.

Earlier that morning, the Past & Present event was given by poets well-known to Edinburgh. Rob A Mackenzie’s deadpan performance of his own poetry hides an often wicked humour, and his presentation of the work of Miroslav Holub contained these elements, as well as a fascinating insight into a poet who deftly combined science, language, and darkly comic twists.

Helena Nelson’s contrasting delivery nevertheless demonstrated the importance of ‘light’ humour in poetry, shown through the (sometimes overlooked) verse of Ruth Pitter. With a glint in her eye, Helena kept us waiting right til the end before reciting Pitter’s cheeky poem, 'The Rude Potato'. One to re-watch before the end of March.

Friday Night ended our week at StAnza with Risk a Verse, the open-mic which not only ran very smoothly, ably hosted by Samuel Tongue, but featured some of our own December 2020 open-mic participants. While Zoom doesn’t quite hold the atmosphere of such an event (silent applause takes some getting used to) it was a lovely way to spend an evening tucked up on the sofa with a glass of wine, with still a whole weekend of events left to enjoy.

We’d like to thank Eleanor and Annie for their support of the Edinburgh Literary Salon. Our next meeting, on the 30th of March, features poetry, and storytelling, and as always is free to attend.



Categories: News