Festival Director Steps Down

Monday 10 May 2010

Out-going StAnza Director Brian Johnstone and new Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone
Photo: Al Buntin

Changes will be taking place at StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival as longstanding Festival Director, Brian Johnstone, officially stepped down on 31 May after a decade in the role. He has now handed over the reins to the current Artistic Director, Eleanor Livingstone.

Brian is a co-founder of StAnza, which started life in 1998 as a fairly small gathering of poets and poetry lovers in the Fife town of St Andrews. During his time as Festival Director, he has overseen StAnza’s astonishing growth both in audience numbers and in reputation. He leaves the festival a highlight of the busy arts calendar in Scotland and the UK which regularly draws audiences from the rest of Europe and America. Last year, he saw StAnza shortlisted for a Scottish Thistle Award, in recognition of its impact during Homecoming Year.

In previous years he has brought a range of major American poets to the festival, commissioned art works from leading Scottish artists, featured both past and present Poet Laureates, and has brought to StAnza poets from over 40 countries. The last five years have seen sustained increases in attendances – 11,000 at this year’s festival – and the festival has become a byword for excellence and hospitality.

Brian Johnstone says: ‘While I’m looking forward to having more time to pursue my own creative interests, I will also enjoy seeing how StAnza develops and grows as I’m sure it will under its new Festival Director. I’m delighted to be passing it on to such a dedicated successor – it’s going to be great – just you wait and see!’

StAnza’s new Festival Director, Eleanor Livingstone has been involved with StAnza for seven years and has been Artistic Director since 2005. Among her recent achievements has been the creation of Distant Voices: StAnza’s Digital Poetry Festival, which webcast live events to over 60 countries.  She is already planning the 2011 festival and will take over the other responsibilities from June.

Of her new role, Eleanor says: ‘Over the last five years, working with Brian and our wonderful team has been a rewarding experience and I’m looking forward with enthusiasm to the challenge of leading StAnza into the future. With so much great poetry available, so many exciting possibilities for future festivals and new types of poetry encounters and engagements, I’m sure StAnza can continue to expand and develop with our focus firmly on creativity and excellence.’

‘It’s been a privilege to develop such a major event and I am happy to hand over a festival of which we can all be justly proud,’ added Brian Johnstone. ‘Without the immense commitment and support of all our members and volunteers, StAnza could simply not have functioned.  And without their sharing my vision for StAnza I would simply not have been able to achieve what I – in truth we – have achieved in making StAnza all that it is today.’