Poets go live with first festival

Poets converged on Stonehaven last weekend for Scotland’s first live poetry festival post-lockdown.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 8:50 am
Jo Gilbert has a captive audience.

Some of Scotland’s most popular and celebrated poets join the 30-plus line-up, including Aberdeen’s Sheena Blackhall and Lesley Benzie, Hugh McMillan, Stirling Makar Laura Fyfe, George Gunn, Harry Smart, and Doric champion Jo Gilbert.

The organisers were promising ‘verbal fireworks and lyrical shenanigans’ at venues including the Trading Corner, Stonehaven Bowling Club and the Tolbooth Museum courtyard – and they didn’t disappoint with a big broth of poets from near and far taking part.

The free mini-festival, called the ‘Wee Gatherin’ was organised by The Poets’ Republic magazine, Stonehaven-based poet Neil Young, and the Trading Corner and promoted on the website as ‘Two nerve-shredding days of poetry in a small Scottish coastal town’.

Hugh McMillan also took to the stage.

Neil said: “This festival, or mini-festival, was originally scheduled for summer 2019 to showcase the best in contemporary Scottish poetry away from the usual urban centres, but Covid has twice put the kibosh on our best-laid plans. Thankfully, the stars became aligned in our favour for what was Scotland’s first live (Zoom-free) poetry mini-festival following the easing of restrictions.

“The fact we had poets travelling here for the weekend from so many compass points – Caithness, Glasgow and, in the case of the writer Bob Beagrie, even Middlesbrough in northern England - shows how keen people were to read live in front an audience . . . socially distanced, of course.”

Mr Young said he hoped the Wee Gatherin could become an annual event that adds to Stonehaven’s reputation - alongside the beer and folk festivals and fireballs - as a focal point for cultural activities.

He added: “All the events are free to attend, although we emphasised that everyone must observe the latest Covid guidelines to ensure safety for all.

"The events at the Trading Corner were booked out, but there was a cracking line-up of readers, plus publishers showcase at the Tolbooth Museum.”

The Poets' Republic was founded in 2014 to create an alternative forum to established poetry outlets. Its distinctive magazines - packed with poetry from across the world - are published biannually.

Submissions for the autumn 2021 issue will be opening soon. You can send up to three poems in a single word document attachment.

Poems should be no more than 40 lines each and previously unpublished. They should be set in 10 or 11 point; no fancy fonts or illustrations.

Your e-mail should include a cover note including the titles of your poems, your address and a brief biography (up to 25 words) written in the third person.

Poems in English and Scots should be e-mailed to [email protected]

Poems in Gaelic should be sent to [email protected]​​​​​​​