Poetry festival gets a French connection

Louise Robertson,  Press and Media Manager for StAnza
Louise Robertson, Press and Media Manager for StAnza
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With less than a month to go, the countdown is most definitely on until StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, gets underway for the 20th time. From 1-5 March, St Andrews will welcome the world to a little corner of Fife, brought alive for five days with poetry, music and art.

This year’s festival will be launched by traditional Scottish singer Sheena Wellington. We’re delighted to welcome Sheena back to StAnza; as a performer at one of our earlier festivals it is fitting she returns to help us celebrate this special milestone.

Sheena is one of Scotland’s leading traditional singers, well known for being a passionate advocate for traditional music and campaigner for recognition and improved funding for Scotland’s traditional arts. She famously sang Robert Burns’ A Man’s A Man For A’ That at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Her background helps us connects with Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology for 2017, in which StAnza is taking part.

Each year the festival opens with a barnstorming first night performance and this year’s opening show, Roll over Atlantic, certainly fits the bill.

In this quirky re-visioning of the notorious New World Enterprise of Christopher Columbus, John Agard, one of Britain’s foremost cross-
cultural voices, known for his mischievous satirical wit, and winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, takes on the voices of Columbus, The Atlantic Ocean, a native shaman and The Mighty Mosquito. It is an uproarious voyage in verse – with songs – that mixes the subversive tides of cabaret and calypso, directed by Mark C Hewitt with music by Thomas Arnold of Stomp’s Lost and Found Orchestra, creating a one-man show like no other.

The opening night show will launch the five-day festival with a line-up including internationally acclaimed poets from all over the world.

Among the big names to perform at StAnza 2017 is British poet Alice Oswald, winner of the Costa Poetry Book Prize and previous winner of the TS Eliot prize. Alice will be joined by Jackie Kay, who was named Scotland’s Makar last year. Jackie has won awards for her poetry, fiction and children’s writing, with her first collection, The Adoption Papers, winning the Forward Prize, a Saltire prize and a Scottish Arts Council Prize.

Also featuring on the programme are Kathleen Jamie, winner of the Saltire Book of the Year Award, and Sarah Howe, winner of the TS Eliot prize for her first collection, Loop of Jade.

Others artists who will appear at StAnza include poet, critic, biographer and professor at the University of St Andrews, Robert Crawford; Jim Carruth, appointed poet laureate for Glasgow in 2014; and Vahni Capildeo, winner of this year’s Forward Prize, Scottish poets James McGonigal and AB Jackson, as well as hard-hitting British poet Patience Agbabi and Zambian poet, Kayo Chingonyi.

StAnza traditionally focuses on two themes which interweave with each other to give each annual festival its own unique flavour.

Our first theme, On the Road, showcases poetry inspired by and reflecting on travel and migration, while our second theme, The Heights of Poetry, looks at how poetry engages with Scotland’s high places, and the poetic connections between Scotland’s hills and mountains and those elsewhere.

For the first time last year we introduced a focus on German poetry and culture and following its success, this year’s festival will have a dedicated language focus on French, under the title La Nouvelle Alliance. It will see various French-speaking poets taking part, along with other events with a French connection.

Other highlights include In Conversation with Hamish Brown and Jim Crumley, in which the two well-known Scottish nature writers discuss poetry, travel and seeking high places; Leasungspell with poet Bob Beagrie, along with a group of musicians in a live performance of spoken word and sound, to launch the publication of the epic poem Leasungspell; and not forgetting younger poetry fans, we have an hour of mischief and magic with poet Ron Butlin in Here Come the Trolls.

Tickets are now on sale for StAnza, so whether you’re a StAnza regular or have never been, why not come along and enjoy the energetic buzz of the beautiful and historic Fife town.

For five days you can hear your favourite poet, discover new voices and meet other poets, writers and publishers.

To see the full programme and buy tickets go to the website www.stanzapoetry.org. Louise Robertson is Press and Media Manager for StAnza