StAnza 2014

Wasn’t that a time!

This year’s StAnza was one to remember. It is my opinion that this Festival always scores very highly on many fronts – the range and variety of events and poets attending, the reasonable ticket prices, the backup in terms of local accommodation and places to eat. It makes it a great place to meet people you only ever see on line, to catch up with friends, or to buy poetry from a proper shop instead of resorting to Amazon.

This year it was better than ever. Last year the Byre Theatre closed at short notice a few weeks before StAnza was due to start, and the organisers had to find alternative venues, not only for events but for the festival hub. To their everlasting credit, they succeeded brilliantly, but this year the Byre has reopened, and so many people commented on how nice it was to be home. The Byre is a lovely welcoming building with display spaces and meeting spaces as well as performance areas, so it made all the difference to the atmosphere and to the stress levels of the staff to have it operational again. I was disconcerted to find that the general population of St Andrews didn’t seem to know it had happened, so somebody was missing a trick! But please, good people of Fife, support it generously, or it will just go again —

I wasn’t there long (it was a serious mistake to miss the poets’ market on Saturday- that will never happen again!) but I did go to see the John Burnside reading. Impressive as ever, it was outclassed by the reading of Tishani Doshi, a poet from India whose powerful poems on love, heritage, identity, and philosophy will stay with me for a long time. I visited Angela Topping’s Lightfoot Letters exhibition in the Heritage Museum – a delightful building with a lovely small herb garden – scoured the bookshops, took part in the open mic, got the first copy of Nikki Magennis’ new pamphlet from Red Squirrel, meeting buddha in dumbarton, and caught up with several friends.

Enormous thanks should go to the many staff and volunteers who make StAnza the well-organised hassle-free stimulating experience it is, but I should make a special mention of Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone. She makes it look so easy, but the amount of planning, communicating and preparation which goes into that effect must be phenomenal. Thank you so much, Eleanor!

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