I’m excited to announce that I’ll be the in-house blogger for StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival this year, as well as doing Social Media for StAnza on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here are some reflections on my relationship with StAnza, what the festival means to me, and things I’m looking forward to at StAnza 2016.
It’s almost time for StAnza, the festival that I look forward to every spring. I’ve been volunteering with this amazing festival since my first year at the University of St Andrews (five years ago!). My volunteer role that first year was taking publicity photographs. I proudly pinned the ‘Photographer’ badge on to my cardigan and huddled at the back of auditoriums, cafes and bars with my camera. I quickly fell in love with the entire festival. There’s a wonderful buzz and atmosphere at StAnza, an excitement you feel mingling with the crowds in the bright Byre Theatre foyer or while hearing poets from all over the world speaking about and reading from their work. I was hooked.
Since that year, I’ve volunteered for the festival in many different capacities: managing venues, liaising with poets, introducing events, even serving on the Festival Planning committee. I’ve also performed my poetry at the festival and spoken there about my picture book, I Love St Andrews, released last year. StAnza has had a big impact on my life and my career. It was winning the StAnza Poetry Slam in 2013 that qualified me for Scottish Nationals in 2013 (which I went on to win). I then represented Scotland at the World Series of Slam Poetry in Paris and placed 4th in the World. The StAnza Slam basically kick started my career as a spoken word poet and every year the Slam is still an amazing place to see rising talent alongside celebrated performers from Scotland’s spoken word scene. I also met one of my best friends through volunteering at StAnza, the poet Laala Kashef Alghata (remember her from the Creative Friends feature?). Many other great friendships and connections have blossomed over a cup of coffee in the Byre Theatre bar.
One of the festival themes this year is City Lines, looking at architecture and how poetry can help build personal and public creative spaces. StAnza has greatly shaped my creative life, helping me build personal and creative connections that have inspired and supported me for the past five years. This year, I’m so excited to be the in-house blogger for the festival, as well as doing Social Media for them. If you don’t already follow StAnza on Twitter/Instagram, what are you waiting for? 🙂 I’ll be writing blogs throughout the festival on what I’m seeing and doing. Hopefully they’ll be an enjoyable read for those who are there and they will give a nice flavor of the festival for those who can’t make it in person.
I’m looking forward to so many things at this year’s festival (Have you seen the line-up? It’s incredible!), but I’m especially looking forward to seeing Jane Yolen, acclaimed US poet and children’s writer as well as the amazing Pascale Petit. Jemima Foxtrot’s Melody is another show I’m looking forward to catching. I interviewed her during the Fringe about it and it’s really unique and moving show combining spoken word and song. Clive Birnie, of Burning Eye Books, is going to be getting up to some exciting things as well as with HashtagPoetry# and I’m looking forward to checking out Poetry Tattoos. Rebecca Sharp’s installation pairing poems with perfumes is something I’m looking forward to seeing (and smelling) as well.
StAnza 2016 looks like it’s going to be another year of great poetry, great art and great conversation. I cannot wait.
StAnza runs this year from March 2-6th, 2016 in St Andrews, Scotland. I’ll be blogging on the StAnza website here so be sure to keep an eye out for those!