A Late Celebration of Samhain

Tuesday 26 October 2021, 16:58

November's almost upon us, and that means one thing: Book Week Scotland! We're thrilled to be running a free but ticketed BWS event with poet Lisa Fannen on 20 November from 2 - 4pm. Read on to find out more, and sign up at Eventbrite.

Storytelling and poetry have long been at the heart of our rituals marking the turning of the year – all the more so in winter, when we turn to poetry and stories to bring connection and warmth into the short days and dark evenings.

Join us for a belated celebration of the passing of Samhain, as we offer up poetry which honours the
season, celebrates the dark, speaks to these times and points to renewal and hope. Poet Lisa Fannen will be leading a walk along the coastline of Fife towards Tentsmuir Nature Reserve, which will come to a close just as dusk begins to fall. Along the way we will stop for season- and site-specific poems and a performance from Lisa. Please bring a poem or words you might also like to share as we collectively shape some of the time and space.

The walk will cover roughly 3 miles at a gentle pace and is along an unpaved forest track. Please dress for the weather, and do wear waterproof shoes! We'll be offering a taxi shuttle between Leuchars and St Andrews for folk travelling by train or bus (simply select the ticket option with taxi shuttle when signing up on Eventbrite). And we're very excited that Salt and Pine's pancake stall will be open at Tentsmuir car park, where we're starting and finishing the walk!

This event will be filmed to create a half-hour film – if you would rather not appear in the film, simply let us know on the day!

In partnership with Tentsmuir Nature Reserve and I Am Loud Productions, and supported by Book Week Scotland

Categories: News

Push the Boat Out: guest blog post

Thursday 14 October 2021, 13:36

On the eve of Edinburgh's inaugural international poetry festival, we're thrilled to share a guest blog post by Julia Sorensen, communications manager at Push the Boat Out.

There is a Sylvia Plath poem called “The Couriers” – one of the first in Ariel – that starts:

The word of a snail on the plate of a leaf?
It is not mine. Do not accept it.

Acetic acid in a sealed tin?
Do not accept it. It is not genuine.


When I first read the poem I didn’t really know what to do with it. For years it’s been a bit beyond me, really. Sometimes poems speak to me on a visceral level. I don’t need interpret them literally because I can parse them through feeling. Sometimes I just get poems, or they get me. I think when that happens, I’ve found the poetry that works for me, because certainly not all of it does. But sometimes poetry works for me even if I don’t get it. Sometimes with poetry that I love, like Plath’s “The Couriers”, I need to hear what someone else gleans from it before I can form any thoughts of my own.

I’m making two points which vouch for the existence of poetry festivals, especially when they’re varied in content, genre, form, presentation, space, visualisation. The first is that poetry is a particularly subjective thing. I am a poet, but I’m quite picky about the kind of poetry I like. That’s not to say that poetry I’m impartial to isn’t excellent. It’s just to say that because poetry is so distilled, so particular, what makes for good poetry doesn’t make for poetry preferred by everyone. In a group of a thousand people, there’d only be a few at most you could fall in love with.

The second point is that poetry – and literature in general – benefits from being collectively attended to. Independent reading can be personally meditative and transformative, but we also learn things when we read and discuss with other people. We can play with new ideas and this is particularly true with poetry because of its particularity, it’s peculiarity. Countless times I’ve told someone what I like about my favourite lines and they’ve responded “yes, and”—they’ve added something.

You already know that StAnza does an excellent job of finding poetry that speaks to you and making room for you to speak to other people about poetry. Push the Boat Out: Edinburgh’s International Poetry Festival is going to do that too this upcoming weekend (15-17 October) at Summerhall.

We’ve got reading and discussions from Caroline Bird, Raymond Antrobus, Malika Booker, Arusa Qureshi, and Nadine Aisha Jassat; we’ve got headliners from Nova Scotia the Truth, Dave Hook, Billy Letford, and Harry Josephine Giles; we’ve got Double Bills from Alycia Pirmohamed and Anthony Anaxagorou, Andrew McMillan and Fiona Benson, and Cynthia Miller and Seán Hewitt. You can also come to our takeover events, our open mic, our film fest within a poetry fest, see art installations, hip hop shows, and get a pub lunch at Sheep Heid and (try) to beat Michael Pedersen, Janette Ayachi and Peter Mackay/Pàdraig MacAoidh at skittles.

While I love the first two couplets of “The Couriers”, the last line in its singularity speaks to me the most. The poem as a whole is arguably pessimistic, but I think it’s sometimes alright to take a beautiful thing out of context and lend it our own feelings, lend it to them, make meaning differently. So, to autumn, and to Push the Boat Out happening in Edinburgh outside of August:  

Love, love, my season.

Categories: News

Choose Poetry. Choose StAnza.

Thursday 7 October 2021, 14:46

Text as image: Choose poetry. Choose words. Choose reading. Choose writing. Choose to attend in-person or online. Choose to support young poets (and older poets too). Choose coffee v tea – choose cake v pie. Choose to participate. Choose StAnza.

First of all, a very happy National Poetry Day from all at StAnza! We hope that you will all find five minutes in your busy schedules to read or write a poem or two. I’m going to do so the minute I’ve stopped writing this, and I hope you’ll follow my lead! This year’s NPD theme is ‘choice’, and we would also like to take this moment to invite you to ‘choose’ to support us, during a new crowdfunding campaign running between now and mid-November.

The last two years have been challenging times at StAnza, as they have for so many arts organisations. But they have also provided a chance to dream – to imagine what might be possible as we look ahead, through and beyond the pandemic. As I’ve outlined in previous posts, there are lots of exciting plans in the pipeline which we aim to realise this year. Not only do we hope to return to an in-person festival in March 2022 (festival title: Stories like starting points), we also plan to deliver this in hybrid form with at least 25 events livestreamed both in and out, further extending our international reach. December 2021 will see the launch of Well-versed, supporting the establishment of poetry reading groups across Scotland (and beyond), while in January 2022 we will launch a pilot for a new, online young people’s poetry writing programme called Scotland’s Young Makars!

StAnza’s aim is to become a key intervention in poetry: a forum for discussion about the form and its relationship with the wider world, with a commitment to enabling ever greater numbers to participate in poetry. In other words, while maintaining continuity with all that has come before, our inclination is to think big!

StAnza has chosen this moment to reach out, through our first ever crowdfunding appeal, for support. Over the years, we have achieved a vast amount on limited funds, but money this year is particularly tight due to cutbacks from many quarters. So we could now do with a one-off boost. No matter how small or large your contribution, it will help provide:

  • a solid foundation: for StAnza in the years ahead;
  • a step-up: to help us realise our ambitions for poetry in Scotland and beyond;
  • a helping hand: which we might reach out to those in areas of less artistic opportunity, and for Scotland’s poets of tomorrow;
  • an open door: and all while keeping our ticket prices at a level that is accessible for all.


This crowdfunding appeal is being launched in partnership with many of the UK and Scotland’s leading publishing houses, who have generously agreed to donate bundles of 4-5 books which will be offered as rewards for your donations. Donate £10 and you will be awarded 1 raffle ticket to go into the draw for a book bundle, £20 for 2 tickets, all the way up to 10 for £100! If you donate £50 you will also receive the option of sending me a poem for critique, and for £100 you will receive an option of 20 minutes of 1-1 feedback. (No obligation to take these up, of course! One person suggested that a reward might involve going for dinner with me, so you have at least dodged an optional bullet there!) Publishers who have already agreed to support our appeal include Blue Diode, Red Squirrel, HappenStance, Carcanet, Faber, Bloodaxe, Nine Arches, Guillemot, Granta, Shearsman and Pavilion! So that’s at least 11 mystery bundles of books going to lucky winners in time for Christmas. Huge thanks from us to the publishers for their generosity…


StAnza faces some difficult choices over the coming months in terms of which of our ambitions we can achieve and which we need to place on pause – by choosing to support StAnza you will make these choices that little bit easier.

Categories: News

Work With Us!

Tuesday 5 October 2021, 08:40

StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, is looking for a proactive and engaged freelance project manager with experience of working with young people in the arts. Join us to help deliver the inaugural season of our brand new young people’s project, Scotland’s Young Makars!

StAnza is one of Scotland’s flagship cultural events and is a leading poetry festival on the international stage. The festival takes place each year in March in St Andrews, with roughly 100 events and exhibitions and 120 – 150 poets, writers and artists. After a successful digital offering in 2021, we are planning a hybrid festival for StAnza 2022 (9 – 13 March), alongside which we are developing a range of new outreach projects.

Scotland’s Young Makars will be open to secondary school pupils across Scotland, and will consist of five live Zoom webinars – taking place weekly from early January – with leading poet-tutors. Following the webinars, young people will have the opportunity to submit their writing for consideration, and the most promising writer from each year group will be invited for further group and one-on-one mentoring during February. The six young people selected for mentorship will take part in a showcase event (virtual or in-person, depending on funding) at StAnza 2022.

We are looking for a freelance project manager to promote and facilitate Scotland’s Young Makars. The successful candidate will work closely with the StAnza Festival Director & Assistant Festival Director, from the beginning of November until April. The role will largely consist of home working, but occasional travel to St Andrews or Edinburgh may be required (travel expenses will be covered). The preferred candidate will be required to join the PVG Scheme or undergo a PVG Scheme update check.

The fee is £3500, and we anticipate the work requiring a total of 25 – 30 days.

Key responsibilities will include:

  • promoting Scotland’s Young Makars to schools and other organisations who work with young people;
  • programming and booking five poets for online workshops and mentoring;
  • facilitating these workshops and subsequent mentoring sessions;
  • assisting the lead tutor in sifting submissions to select young poets for mentoring;
  • organising an event at StAnza 2022, showcasing the poets who have been mentored, and inviting local schools to attend;
  • writing a report on the completed project and/or drafting a funding bid to support the viability of the project in years to come.

Person specification:

  • An active interest in and knowledge of contemporary poetry
  • Significant experience of arts project management
  • The ability to work on your own initiative and as part of a team
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Experience of managing budgets
  • Strong and demonstrable IT, administrative and organisational skills
  • Experience organising and facilitating events
  • Experience of working with young people

To apply, please submit a CV and a short covering letter (no more than 2 sides of A4) by midnight on Wednesday 20th October 2021. Applications should be sent via email to Interviews will be held via Zoom the following week. If you have any questions – or if we can assist in meeting any accessibility requirements you may have – please do get in touch.

Scotland's Young Makars is funded by Creative Scotland, Old Possum's Practical Trust and the Edwin Morgan Trust.

Categories: News

Kickstarting the StAnza festival planning season!

Monday 27 September 2021, 12:45

In order to both extend our own capacity, and also to provide opportunities for young people interested in working in the arts, StAnza has this year decided to take on two trainees through the government’s Kickstart programme! This programme covers the wages and expenses of candidates for a period of 6 months, and in return the candidate will gain work experience and skills, and mentoring and training from the StAnza team and beyond. StAnza has an excellent track record at developing volunteers who have used this experience as the foundation for careers in the arts. By becoming involved in the Kickstart scheme, StAnza aims to continue and extend this good work into 2022 and beyond.

Please do spread the word: see below for more details!

A group of roughly 15 people of different ages, smiling at the camera

Join our team!

Looking for a career in the arts, or know anyone who might be? StAnza currently has two trainee positions open for applications. These are run through the Kickstart programme, so are open to young people aged between 16 and 24 and on Universal Credit. We’ll be offering a range of internal and external training, offering a great leg-up into working in the arts!


Both contracts are for 25 hours a week for six months, starting as soon as possible. Trainees will largely be working from home, with some trips to St Andrews (travel expenses are covered).


If you know anyone eligible who you think might be interested, please pass the info and our website details ( onto them – and if you’re keen yourself, then speak to your work coach to apply! StAnza can’t accept direct applications without a job centre referral.

StAnza – Scotland's International Poetry Festival, takes place each year in March in St Andrews, with roughly 100 events and exhibitions and 120 – 150 poets, writers and artists. After going digital in 2021, we are planning for StAnza 2022 (9 – 13 March) to be a live festival with an enhanced digital offering. Trainees will be a part of this exciting new phase in StAnza’s development.

As a trainee, you will gain insight into and experience of all aspects of arts administration and events management, from early planning in October through to the delivery of the festival in March. You’ll be part of a small, friendly team running one of Scotland’s flagmark cultural festivals!

Programming Assistant

Key activities will include:

  • Liaising with poets and artists about publicity material, contracts, travel and other festival arrangements
  • Assisting with keeping the StAnza database of festival participants up to date
  • Writing event blurbs for the festival programme
  • Proofreading event blurbs and author biographies
  • Drawing up event schedules
  • Events facilitation and introductions during the festival
  • Writing blog posts
  • Project managing an individual event
  • Social media

Candidates should have:

  • Strong organisational and administrative skills
  • Very good written and oral communication skills
  • Experience and working knowledge of Word and Excel
  • Working knowledge of digital comms platforms such as Zoom / Teams
  • Internet research skills
  • Enthusiasm for reading/literature or the arts
  • Able both to work within a small team and independently (working from home)
  • Good attention to detail
  • Friendly approach to working with a wide range of people
  • Time-management skills, and the ability to self-motivate
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Experience of working in a customer-facing environment
  • Desirable: Experience of organising (or assisting with organising) an event. (This could be in a personal capacity.)

Digital and Administrative Assistant (no longer open)

Key activities will include:

  • Liaising with and supporting our digital events consultant in the run-up to the festival
  • Updating our website, and supporting our web designer with development and archiving tasks
  • Data management and inputting
  • Drawing up event schedules for digital events, and liaising with participants
  • Providing support to poets who are filming themselves for events
  • Facilitating digital events during the festival, alongside our digital events consultant and theatre tech team
  • Project managing an individual digital event
  • Social media management
  • General digital / tech support

You may also assist colleagues with the following:

  • Liaising with poets and artists about publicity material, contracts, travel and other festival arrangements
  • Writing / proofreading event blurbs for the festival programme
  • Drawing up event schedules
  • Events introductions during the festival
  • Writing blog posts

Candidates should have (skills can have been acquired in a personal capacity):

  • Enthusiasm for digital media
  • Good all-round IT skills / conversant in IT issues
  • Basic knowledge of video and/or sound editing and production
  • Experience of managing/editing websites, ideally using WordPress
  • Working knowledge of digital platforms such as Zoom, Vimeo and Youtube
  • Confidence in learning to use new digital and IT platforms
  • Good written and oral communication skills
  • Experience and working knowledge of Word and Excel
  • Enthusiasm for reading/literature or the arts
  • Ability to both work within a small team and independently (working from home)
  • Friendly approach to working with a wide range of people
  • Time-management skills, and the ability to self-motivate
  • Experience of working in a customer-facing environment

We look forward to hearing from you!


Categories: News

Brian Johnstone memorial event

Tuesday 21 September 2021, 14:59

Photo of a couple dancing

Photo: Polly Atkin

We are delighted to announce a celebration concert in honour of the late Brian Johnstone, renowned poet and former director of the StAnza, organised by Jean Johnstone.

The concert will feature readings from poets Rachael Boast and John Glenday. and will also showcase Brian’s love of jazz, classical and spiritual music from many places and times, featuring performances from Steve Gellatly, Louise Major and Richard Ingham, Alasdair Coles and Sarah Moerman.

The event will take place on Saturday 23 October from 5.30pm and will be accessible on the Music from St Andrews YouTube channel.

We hope you can join us online for what will be a joyous celebration of music and poetry in honour of Brian’s unique contribution to Scottish culture and the written word.

Categories: News