Festival goers will recall the spectacular ‘Burning Burns’ event at our festival’s launch back in March when artist David Mach set fire to one of a pair of matchhead sculptures of the head of Robert Burns, with First Minister Alex Salmond in the audience. Now there is a twist to the tale of this memorable event.
The sculptures, which were especially commissioned for StAnza as part of this year’s Homecoming celebrations, are going on long-term loan to Parliament and will be on display there from 18th August, to coincide with the start of Edinburgh’s Festival of Politics. The heads, one blackened by burning and the other with the red of its matchheads still intact, make a dramatic contrast and will be displayed together in a specially made glass case at the public entrance to the Holyrood Debating Chamber.
Eleanor Livingstone, StAnza’s Artistic Director said: ‘David Mach’s matchheads of Burns became the iconic image of this year’s festival and StAnza’s involvement with Homecoming Scotland . I’m delighted that they will have continuing exposure and impact, especially within the context of Holyrood, a building and institution in which, as in the matchheads, past, present and future meet.’
Iain Smith, MSP for North East Fife, said: "In this year of Homecoming and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, I'm delighted that these splendid matchhead sculptures are being lent to the Scottish Parliament. I'm sure their display will be well-received by public visitors to Holyrood and by the MSPs."
Warm congratulations from StAnza to Jen Hadfield. On 12th January 2009, she became the youngest poet to win the T S Eliot Prize - the most prestigious in the UK - for her second collection Nigh No Place (Bloodaxe). Jen, 30, who lives on Burra, Shetland, gave a wonderful reading at StAnza 2007 and returned in 2008 to show a series of artworks, also called Nigh No Place: Mexican folk inspired retablos (created inside old tobacco tins) which evoked the Shetland landscape and complemented the themes of her book. She was also one of the poets who took part in StAnza's exchange with Stavanger, European City of Culture 2008, where she gave two excellent readings and an inspirational workshop.
"We've taken note of Jen's talents for some time," says Artistic Director Eleanor Livingstone, "and are delighted that she's now achieved such stunning success." Winning the T S Eliot Prize puts Jen in the company of of some very prominent poets. Recent winners have been Sean O'Brien, Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy, George Szirtes and Don Paterson. All at StAnza say: well done, Jen! We look forward to your return to the festival."
Adrian Mitchell reading at StAnza 2008
StAnza patron and distinguished poet and teacher Professor Douglas Dunn retired recently from the University of St Andrews School of English, where he has taught since being made a professor in 1991. Douglas Dunn served as head of school and director of the Scottish Studies Institute, and helped found the postgraduate creative writing course – the first such course in Scotland – where he assembled a strong team of writers, including John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie, Don Paterson and A L Kennedy.
StAnza has been fortunate in having Douglas Dunn as Honorary Patron since the festival’s inception, and it is impossible to exaggerate the help and advice he has given the directors down the years. He has been persuaded to participate in the festival from time to time, notably in 2003, when his Selected Works proved so popular that we had to change the venue from the Byre Studio Theatre to the main auditorium. In 2004 StAnza commissioned a major collaborative exhibition from Douglas and the internationally renowned sculptor and installation artist, Elizabeth Ogilvie and, in the much-missed Crawford Arts Centre’s studio theatre, this interactive water-based project, The Meaning of Water, became a quiet space for meditation.
Luckily for StAnza, Douglas has agreed to remain as Honorary Patron, and we very much hope that he will continue to advise and inspire, and to give us the benefit of a lifetime of experience of poets and poetry. All of us at StAnza would like to wish him the very best of health and a very happy and productive retirement.
Trustee & co-founder, StAnza
StAnza was greatly saddened to hear of the death on 20th September of Duncan Glen, Scottish poet, publisher, graphic designer and typographer. Duncan was due to take part in StAnza 2009 until recent ill health forced him to withdraw from the programme. We are indebted to him for his contributions to previous festivals, including a spirited reading at 2007’s 100 Poets’ Gathering and a engaging talk on MacDiarmid in 2001. His superb, inspired design work on our programmes and flyers in 2003 and 2004 resulted in StAnza’s signature long, tall programme style and is the source of much of the festival’s design identity to this day.
John Bell was born in Glasgow in 1946. After his schooling, he attended Glasgow University, studying for the degree of B Ed. John’s career teaching Modern Studies, led ultimately to his appointment as Principal Teacher in Modern Studies at Glenrothes High School. After nine years as PT, John was appointed as the first ever Scottish Secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, a post he held for six years.
In 1984 John was elected as a Liberal Councillor in Glenrothes serving for four years. In 1990, John and his wife Catie moved to Lundin Links and in 2001 John was elected as LibDem councillor for Largo, representing the ward until 2007. John was also a director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he took an interest not only in the performance side of the orchestra but also the work that they do in schools.
In 2005 John was asked to join the Board of StAnza, and was a highly active member until his death. In this capacity he attended numerous board meetings, assisting in many aspects of the organisation’s work and advising on various matters, particularly those connected with the local administration. On top of that he was a regular attender at planning committee meetings and festival plenary meetings, always contributing pertinent and well-considered opinions.
John’s council connections enabled him to assist StAnza in numerous ways, most notably in arranging for the festival’s use of our depot at the St Andrews Council Offices and with securing police permission for the memorable projections during our 10th festival in 2007. He was also extremely assiduous in making personal connections with people attending the festival, especially those from overseas. His representation of StAnza in this way will, in particular, be sorely missed. In short, John was one of those people who gave more than they receive, and always with enthusiasm and commitment. All of us involved in StAnza have been privileged to know him.