The clever people who create our programme have outdone themselves this time as we prepare for a festival to remember for our 20th year. As well as revealing an ambitious and vibrant programme fitting of such a terrific milestone, we are preparing to launch a special project to mark the beginning of our third decade, which we’ll announce next year.
StAnza takes place in the Fife coastal town of St Andrews from 1-5 March and traditionally opens with a showstopping first-night performance. StAnza 2017’s opening night will be no different as our audience will be invited to join poet John Agard on a quirky re-visioning of the notorious New World Enterprise of Christopher Columbus.
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. Expect an uproarious voyage in verse – with songs – that mixes the subversive tides of cabaret and calypso. It is directed by Mark C Hewitt with music by Thomas Arnold of Stomp’s Lost and Found Orchestra, and will be a one-man show like no other.
The opening night show launches the five-day festival with a line-up which includes internationally acclaimed poets from all over the world. Among StAnza’s 2017 headliners are British poet Alice Oswald – a previous winner of the TS Eliot prize – and Kathleen Jamie, who has just won the Saltire Book of the Year and Scottish Poetry Book of Year.
Other big names to perform for us next year include Scotland’s new Makar, Jackie Kay; poet, critic, biographer and professor at the University of St Andrews, Robert Crawford; and Jim Carruth, appointed poet laureate for Glasgow in 2014. Plus, Vahni Capildeo, recent winner of this year’s Forward Prize; Scottish poets James McGonigal and AB Jackson; and Sarah Howe, winner of the TS Eliot prize for her first collection Loop of Jade. Hard-hitting British poet Patience Agbabi, Zambian poet, Kayo Chingonyi and Jacques Darras from France are also included in the programme.
StAnza focuses on two themes which interweave to give each festival a unique flavour. Next year’s first theme, On the Road, showcases poetry inspired by and reflecting on travel and migration, while 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.
At our 2016 festival we had a focus on German poetry and culture. Such was the success of this that next year’s festival will have a dedicated language focus on French, under the title, La Nouvelle Alliance, which will see various French-speaking poets taking part along with other events with a French connection. Through La Nouvelle Alliance and the theme The Heights of Poetry, StAnza will engage with Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
Other highlights for 2017 include a Poetry Café with lunch and spoken word for social justice from the South African poet Sibusiso Conelius Simelane and we’re thrilled to be welcoming the Loud Poets, who are currently taking the country by storm, generating a huge following with their unique take on spoken word poetry.
A special part of next year’s progamme is a tribute to Alexander (Sandy) Hutchison, one of Scotland’s leading poets, whose untimely death in late 2014 shocked his many friends and readers. Sandy was a very familiar face at StAnza and our 2017 festival is honoured to host an event which will feature readings of some of Sandy’s poems and tributes from some of the people who, like us, had the privilege of calling him a friend.
With over 60 poets taking part in more than 80 events at StAnza in St Andrews, we simply can’t mention them all.
So come along and join the many poets, musicians, visual artists and filmmakers who will be bringing the historic Fife town alive with poetry, music and art in March.
Louise Robertson is Press & Media Manager for StAnza, www.stanzapoetry.org