This year was my first time visiting StAnza, Scotland's International Poetry Festival, in fact it was my first time visiting a poetry event of any type. I had a fantastic weekend and hopefully I can share some of the tips that I picked up so you can have a fantastic time too. So here is my First Timers Guide to Visiting StAnza...
Where does StAnza take place?
In the historic and picturesque town of St Andrews which is situated in the region of Fife on the east coast of Scotland. St Andrews is 'The Home of Golf' and the third-oldest English-speaking university in the world which was founded in 1413. it is also legend that the bones of St Andrew were brought here, hence the name.
When does it takes place?
The festival takes place in March and has just celebrated it's 18th year.
What does StAnza mean?
Stanza is a poetry term which in this case has been carefully branded with the St and A of St Andrews. If you look at the festival logo then you will see that the A has also been designed to look like the St Andrews Cross (the flag of Scotland).
As a poetry term www.shmoop.com describes a stanza as 'A division within a poem where a group of lines are formed into a unit. The word “stanza” comes from the Italian word for “room.” Just like a room, a poetic stanza is set apart on a page by four “walls” of blank, white space.'
Why should I visit?
This is the perfect chilled out festival and St Andrews is the perfect Scottish short break destination. Combine the two and you will have an amazingly relaxed and unique experience.
Who is this festival suitable for?
Families, couples, friends or solo travellers will feel equally at home and welcome with events for all tastes. Even if you don't have any poetry knowledge you may be surprised at how accessible many of the events are. If you enjoy live performances such as plays or storytelling then you will most likely enjoy live poetry too.
How do I get there?
Bus - There is a bus station in the town centre and you can catch a Stagecoach bus from Edinburgh or Glasgow, see their website for more details https://www.stagecoachbus.com/
Train - St Andrews doesn't have it's own train station, instead you will have to travel to Leuchars station (6 miles away) and complete your journey by bus or taxi. Train information can be found on the ScotRail website at http://www.scotrail.co.uk/
Car - St Andrews is easily accessible by car from all the main cities in Scotland. The St Andrews University website has some suggested driving routes, be warned though if you decide to drive then finding a parking place in the town centre at peak times is not easy (understatement!) and paid parking meters are in operation which have a maximum stay time of 2 hours.
Where should I stay?
St Andrews has accommodation to suit all budgets and there are some fabulous high end hotels if you are looking for some luxury. I always use TripAdvisor as a great guide for honest hotel reviews and they have a handy list of the best St Andrews Hotels which is worth looking at before you book.
How do I find out what shows are on?
Keep an eye on the StAnza website nearer festival time as they publish a full online programme usually about January time.
How do I buy tickets?
Tickets can be booked online or purchased at the box office, the popular shows such as the Saturday headline feature are best booked in advance.
How much do tickets cost?
All the shows are reasonably priced and some are even free, this really is the ideal budget festival. Expect to pay on average between £3 - £6 and this year the headline show cost a mere £9 which is amazing value.
Concessions are available and watch out for earlybird tickets which need to be booked by February. This year the discount was a very generous 30% off all tickets.
I don't know much about poetry, how do I choose a show?
The StAnza website lists shows by genre which is a helpful way to start your research. Here are my recommendations -
Best Event for a Newbie - The Poetry Cafe Events are Informal and you are welcomed with a pie and a pint while you enjoy the show.
Must See Event - The Saturday night headline show features top, contemporary poets and is a great way to hear some well known names reading their work. This is the most popular event at the festival so book in advance.
Best Event for a Night Out - For a fun and unique night out you have to check out the StAnza Slam!
Trying to explain a Slam to someone that has not experienced it before is not easy so I have borrowed this definition from www.shmoop.com that describes it as 'A form of contemporary poetry that is meant to be performed at informal competitions rather than read. Slam readings are often very political in nature and draw heavily from the rhythms and energy of hip-hop music'
There are also some great family events if you are travelling with younger children.
What should I wear?
Casual for daytime events is the norm and smart casual for the evening. If you are also planning to explore St Andrews then don't forget some comfortable shoes and a camera!
Where is the best place to soak up the festival atmosphere?
The Byre Theatre is the festival hub and I highly recommend you buy a coffee and cake from the theatre cafe and spend some time lounging around next to the poets, press, organisers and audience and enjoy the chilled out vibe.
What else can I do in St Andrews?
St Andrews has a little bit of everything you could want for a weekend away in Scotland. Beautiful beaches, historic buildings, world class golf, boutique bars and restaurants, independent shops and stunning scenery. Whatever your age or interests I can guarantee there will be something for you and due to it's small size, you don't have to walk very far to experience a little bit of everything on offer. The Visit St Andrews website has lots of ideas.
If there is anything I've missed or you would like advice on please get in touch and I'll be delighted to help you plan your trip to StAnza.
If you want to find out more about my experience of StAnza then have a read at my blog post
Finally, don't forget to have a look at the StAnza website to find out lots more info on this fab Scottish festival
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