August in Edinburgh

It’s August in Edinburgh! There’s so much that is marvellous on offer, how can one choose? I’m already mourning my missing of the PJ Harvey gig, which I hear was life changing. Still to come: a few readings which it would be brilliant to see you at…


I have the pleasure of reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with Rachael Boast on Tuesday 15 August at 3.30pm. Book your tickets here.


The week starting Monday 21 August I’m part of the EIBF Live Poetry Lab residencies. My day is Wednesday 23 August but there are great poets on tap all week. Come along to watch us writing live and/or to contribute to our texts, tweet in contributions and festival memories to #LivePoetryLab and watch our collaborative writing come into being live online. More details and information about how you can contribute here and here.

I will also be reading on a stupendous bill at Second Space Poetry at the Safari Lounge starting at 8pm sharp on Saturday 26 August. More details here.

I’m planning to attend the Atlantic Drift launch party, which looks great and will feature readings by Andrea Brady, Sean Bonney & Sophie Collins.

I’ll be checking out the exhibitions at Talbot Rice Gallery and the Edinburgh Art Festival.

We’ve got tickets for Verdi’s Macbeth, plenty of events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival including Michael Longley and Rachel McCrum & Miriam Nash, Daphne Loads in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas talking about recipes and gender quality, Theatre Re and hopefully much more — recommendations are most welcome. Have a beautiful August, and for those of you in Edinburgh… happy Festivals!



Word Up

I’ve been meaning to post links to all these nice blogs and articles that have come in over the past few months and haven’t had time, so I thought I would do a round up.

A lovely blog by translator and poet Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese about the Polish translation workshop with poet Wojciech Bonowicz that took place at the Scottish Poetry Library toward the end of last year, including a few of our translations: Polish Signs.

A review in The Observer of my opera, Snow, which premiered in London in February 2017: Observer Review.

A collection of recordings of poems from the Signal project that I was involved in thanks to an invitation from Marjorie Lotfi Gill last year as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival: EAF Signal Poems.

A blog on the Scottish Review of Books website that seems like it’s from a different world now, but with a nice mention of me and Hillary at the end: SRB blog.

A very generous blog by Colin Waters about me moving on from the Scottish Poetry Library at the end of last year: Jennifer Leaving SPL Blog.

NR 17-02-17 092

(c) Nick Rutter from Snow, The Opera Story, 2017


Flint & Pitch plus 12-Hour Action Group

Hello there!


So much has been happening, and is happening… here are details and invitations for you:

I finished up at the Scottish Poetry Library in November and will be starting at my new job as Projects and Engagement Coordinator for the Institute for Academic Development at the University of Edinburgh next week – exciting!  Here is a super nice SPL Post that dear Colin Waters, SPL Communications Manager, wrote for my leaving.  Here too, on that subject, is a pre-election piece for the SRB he wrote mentioning my fateful meeting with Hillary Clinton so long ago that might remind you of those more innocent pre-Trump days.

Tomorrow I’m reading poetry at The Flint & Pitch Revue #2 along with a whole host of dizzyingly talented folks, so please do come along if you can make it.  It’s at the Bongo Club at 7pm and you can book your tickets here.

Then on Saturday I’ll be at Cooper Gallery in Dundee for the Of Other Spaces: Where Does Gesture Become Event? International Symposium 12-Hour Action Group, starting at 11am and, you guessed it, ending at 11pm.  I’ve been curating a collaborative writing project with 11 other Edinburgh-based writers in response to material in this incredible show, and it’s been such a stimulating, inspiring and redemptive experience to be making this collective work, especially over these past trying weeks.  We’ll be performing some of the texts, which will also appear shortly on the Cooper Gallery website.  You can come to this Symposium as well,  it’s free but you need to RSVP here.

There’s more to tell, but I think I will stop here for now and promise more soon.  Hope to see you at one or both of these events, or somewhere else very soon!






Drag Queen Poetry: The Library is Open!

I was so honoured to host the recent Drag Queen Poetry event at the Scottish Poetry Library.  When I first heard Iain Morrison reading his new sequence of Drag Queen poems in 2015, I knew they needed to be heard by more people.  Iain’s brilliant friend, poet and artist Jean-François Krebs, came on board and American poet Andy Emitt agreed to join us via Skype, and the rest is history.  Read more about it here and here and here.  The audience made it very clear to us that they appreciated the aesthetically-astute and intellectually-rigorous engagement with the subject combined with the sheer pleasure of the experience; poetry, music, dancing, prancing and of course… costumes!


(c) Chris Scott 2016

Two Minute Manifesto

There’s a delicious collection of minds and hearts – David Greig (new Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre!), Zinnie Harris, Tiffany Jenkins, Dominic Hinde and Chrissy Barnacle – all on stage at the Traverse tomorrow night for the newest instalment of Two Minute Manifesto – and me doing a poem or two.  Do join us!



Join us if you can, tickets are available here.  It’s such a treat to be part of this!


Closing Time by Kevin P. Gilday; Pirlie Wee Horses by JL Williams
Directed by Peter Arnott
22nd April 2015
Free but ticketed

A rehearsed reading of a brand new play with professional actors including Moyo Akandé, Paul Cunningham, George Docherty and Janette Foggo.

Peter Arnott and a team of actors will encounter two new plays in a live experiment. During the day, the director and actors’ immediate first response to the unseen texts as they unfold will be used to find each play’s strengths and weaknesses. Peter will then compile extracts from both plays to be presented on the same night, bringing the audience into this close encounter with new writing.

Closing Time written by Kevin P. Gilday
Pirlie Wee Horses written by JL Williams
Directed by Peter Arnott


Jerwood Opera Writing Programme

Another piece of marvellous news just came along. I have been accepted onto the 2014/2015 Jerwood Opera Writing Programme. For a long time now I have been working with amazing composers and musicians such as James Iremonger to explore how poetry and music can combine to produce new creations, and this feels like the next (huge) step. Exciting!

Jerwood Opera Writing Programme

The Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at Aldeburgh Music is designed for composers, writers and directors who have little or no experience of writing or creating opera, and who want to widen their horizons and equip themselves to create contemporary work combining music, theatre and text. Artists can be at any stage of their career. Aldeburgh Music, with its unique, inspiring environment and its growing programme of professional development for musicians and composers, has an unparalleled history of creating new opera.

2014-15 Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Course participants announced
Aldeburgh Music and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation are delighted to announce the participants for the Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Course 2014 – 2015.

In March 2014, Aldeburgh Music invited applications for the next Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Course from composers, writers and directors who have little or no experience of creating opera and who want to widen their horizons and equip themselves to create contemporary work combining music, theatre and text.

The course will take place at Aldeburgh Music on the Suffolk coast and will be led by composer David Sawer and theatre and opera director and designer Stewart Laing.

From over 100 applications submitted, the following artists have been selected to take part:

Josh Armstrong (director)
Finn Beames (director/writer)
Santa Bušs (composer)
Pamela Carter (playwright)
Leyli Daryoush (writer)
Petter Ekman (composer)
Samantha Fernando (composer)
Nic Green (director/performer/artist)
Max Hoehn (writer/director)
Edmund Hunt (composer)
Jesse Jones (composer)
Sarah Lewis (composer)
Lliam Paterson (composer)
Naomi Pinnock (composer)
Richard Scott (writer/poet)
Daniel Solon (playwright)
Andrew Thomas (composer)
Shiori Usui (composer)
JL (Jennifer) Williams (poet/playwright)

The selected artists will travel to Aldeburgh for three residential courses, which will take place in November 2014, March 2015 and September 2015.


The Jerwood Opera Writing Programme was launched in 2007 followed by a second installment in 2010/11. Forty participants made up of composers, writers, and directors have been given a grounding in writing new opera through a mixture of practical workshops, contributions from teachers including Giorgio Battistelli, Harrison Birtwistle, Alison Chitty, Lavinia Greenlaw, Stephen Plaice, Stephen Langridge, David Sawer and Jonathan Dove amongst others.

Following on from this, Jerwood Opera Writing Fellowships were offered, giving a unique opportunity for composers and their collaborators to receive tailor-made support for writing a new opera. Four Fellowships were awarded in 2009, giving support to composers and their collaborators during the creation of a new work.


Edinburgh College of Art Masters Festival 2014

I will be reading, with the fabulous artist Catherine Street and other great folks, at the Here, Right Now event this weekend as part of the Edinburgh College of Art Masters Festival 2014, all details below.  Hope to see you there!

Edinburgh College of Art Masters Festival 2014

Degree Show and Events

Find out more about the Masters Festival:

Masters Festival 2014


 Here, Right Now: Art Writing Readings more details here

Saturday 23 August, 2.00pm
Readings by Edinburgh-based artists and writers presenting new work. In collaboration with Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee. Book free tickets:

10 ECA MASTERS WEB BANNER 960 x 610px 2014_0


Filmpoem Festival and Continuum

It is August so no surprise that there are a multitude of exciting events to populate your diaries with.  Let me add a couple of options, in case you’re in the mood.  It’s wonderful to be a part of these events curated by good friends and amazing artists.  Hope to see you there if you can make it, or soon anyway in the midst of festival delights and Edinburgh sunshine.


Opul (James Iremonger and JL WIlliams) will be performing at the Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar tomorrow.  You can download the full programme here.


Continuum, part of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2013, will take place at New Media Scotland (aka Inspace).  More details:

8 August 2013



£4. Book tickets.


Continuum is an immersive, visceral experience featuring work by visual artist Catherine Street, poet JL Williams and composer improvisers Martin Parker and Owen Green.
At the heart of this performance, Street’s film Continuum derives its intense sound and images from the exhausted body of the artist. Street is shown engaged in a sensual and bodily encounter, not only with the physical world but also with the conceptual world of mathematical ideas. She probes her physical limits and at the same moment gives voice to a text that seems to explore those limits in cool theoretical terms. Live readings by Street and Williams weave hallucinatory narratives that allude to the experiential world of human perception alongside a theoretical conception of time and space. William’s rich, emotive delivery is contrasted with Street’s precise voice. Taking cues from the intense audio of the film, Green and Parker’s live performances fill the space with sound that builds in intensity over time. On engaging with this sensory experience and the sometimes disturbing impressions evoked by the performances, the audience is liable to feel a strong emotional response, perhaps of unease, fascination or exhilaration.
The film Continuum was shot by filmmakers Ben Ewart-Dean and Daniel Warren, with sound by Owen Green and performance by Catherine Street and Dmitry Ser. Initially created as part of an artist commission for the Human Race exhibition, funded by Legacy Trust UK and Creative Scotland, Continuum was first presented with support from Generator Projects, Dundee.


New Media Scotland

1 Crichton Street, EH8 9AB

0131 650 2750


Edinburgh Review

I’m honoured to have some poems in the current issue of the very fine journal Edinburgh Review. Not only is it a beautiful publication, but it also happens to have the theme of 50 Years of New Playwriting in Scotland, and to feature many poets I had the pleasure of working with during my years at the Traverse Theatre. So nice!

And now you can read some of these poems online here and here.



Terry Deary and Moray Council Make Me Sad

It makes me so sad to read of ignorance like this and like this.  I went to school.  I even got to read poetry in school, and it was wonderful.  But it was in my local public library where I first remember falling in love with a book of poetry; taking it home, cherishing the words, marvelling at the beauty contained within those pages which even as a child I had access to… to my delight and with an engendering of empowerment.  And that generosity, the library’s generosity, the library’s existence, contributed to a lifetime of reading, writing, buying books, working in the arts, working, as I do now, in a very special library — the Scottish Poetry Library, whose holdings and activities bring poetry and joy to more than thousands of people around the world… who then go on to invest even more of themselves, and often their money, into poetry and literature.  The number of times I’ve heard people say that they’re taking a look at a book in the library which they’ll then go on to purchase if they love it in order to have it in their own personal collection… the number of events we host in which poets are celebrated and their books are purchased… to say that libraries don’t contribute not only to the encouragement of the very act of reading but also to the act of the financial support of writers is ludicrous.  The Scottish Poetry Library, like most other libraries, couldn’t exist without public funding, and what a loss it would be if it ever ceased to exist.  What a loss it is to think of the children in Moray not having a place to go where they can discover the power and poignancy of words for themselves.  What a loss it is to think of a community without support for its artists, its theatre makers, its writers, its poets and the people who would like to experience the beauty of what these makers create.  I have yet to meet an artist or writer who doesn’t feel burdened by the need to make a living, to submit their time and creativity to the hungry maw of the commercial world in which we live, and it is through funding, and the occasional gift of patronage in its various guises, that many artists and writers find a tiny oasis in which to breathe, think, make.  Shame on those who seem to think we live in a world where there is no more poverty, where everyone can afford to buy a book, where everyone is fit and able to participate in the marketplace.  Shame on those who think a poet could make enough money to live on by selling their books (though wouldn’t it be nice!).  Shame on those who would rather see an artist submit to market forces than be offered the gift of freedom to create.  My first book, Condition of Fire, was written thanks to an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary that allowed me to go to an extraordinary place and take the time to be and see and experience and taste and feel and write, and write, which I would not otherwise have been able to afford to do.  I’d like to think that was a worthwhile use of that money.  I’d like to think that the many kind people who have bought my book think it was a worthwhile use of that money, and also the people who take my book out of the library.  I do think that the arts, at least in the world we’re living in, need public support — politically, physically, financially.  Yes, we’ve all been to that performance or read that poem written on a funded residency that didn’t do it for us, or seen that example of public art that didn’t add to the beauty of its surrounds.  But haven’t we, most of us, also seen something that’s taken our breath away, heard music that’s made us weep, read a book that’s made us remember a lost moment of joy… in a library, in a theatre that’s been publicly-funded, in a concert hall that couldn’t exist without the help of an arts council.  And finally, to say that because libraries are old means they’re now useless is also mind-boggling, and another sad reflection of our culture which doesn’t seem to value age in any of its forms, especially in its older people; one of our greatest resources… the beautiful, wrinkled, aged, storied wise who so often are overlooked rather than celebrated and learned from.  And it’s worth the investment of looking after them, and of spending time with them, and of talking to them about the poems they love… a conversation you could probably have for free.


Rally & Broad!

I’m so delighted to be reading tomorrow night (Friday 18 January) at Rally & Broad along with those marvellous gentlemen Ryan Van Winkle and Alan Bissett.

I’m also delighted as it will be my first time back at the Counting House since the halcyon days of SiLENCiO, beloved cabaret of my youth… feels a little like coming home (in a David Lynch sort of way).

Hope to see you there!  SiLENCiO pic below… ah, memories… the performances!  The dresses!



Continuum at Generator

I was lucky enough recently to be one of the performers at artist Catherine Street’s Continuum show, along with Catherine herself, Martin Parker and Owen Green.  It was hosted at the super cool Generator Projects in Dundee.  It was very cold, but very thrilling.

I’m very pleased that Catherine will be showing some of her amazing films and reading some of her amazing writing at an event in Scottish Poetry Library programme this Spring.  You’ll can book tickets for that here.


Photo © 2012 Ross Fraser McLean

The Poetry Round @

cropped-img_4073.jpgLovely Annie has posted this very nice article on — Collaborative Poetry with JL Williams — thanks Annie!  Hope you enjoy.

Anatomy #3 and QABALALA!

Opul is super super excited to have two gigs coming along in December, hope to see you at:

Anatomy #3 at Summerhall on 14 December and

Qabalala! at the Leith Cricket Club on 21 December.

James just got a Kaoss pad, so it should be particularly banging.



David Pollock on the Village Pub Theatre

‘It’s a rough and ready chance to enjoy work for what it is’

Published on Thursday 20 September 2012 03:48

David Pollock on the rise of village pub theatre.


“It’s easy to moan about money,” says playwright James Ley, “but it’s important to have a ‘nothing comes from nothing’ attitude too.” To this end he started the Village Pub Theatre back in June as part of the Leith Festival, with some of the finest young playwrights and writers in Scotland showcasing their work every month or so through a group of professional actors under the direction of Caitlin Skinner. All this while the regulars go on drinking and laughing next door.

It’s the theatrical equivalent of putting on an art exhibition in a warehouse space or a gig in a pub basement, a happening in defiance of the fact there’s next to no budget. It’s not a political statement – in fact Ley says he hopes Creative Scotland might provide some funds for larger events come next year’s Leith Festival – but it definitely is a reaction to the times. Village Pub Theatre reflects the fact there are as many voices as ever clamouring to be heard, but that tightly squeezed theatres aren’t able to accommodate as many as they might like.

The list of those involved will please any follower of Scottish theatre. Alongside Ley himself, Morna Pearson and Catherine Grosvenor have written, as well as Colin Bell and poet JL Williams, whom Ley describes as “a great actress, her performance was a bit of a hit”. Jenna Watt’s wonderful, Fringe First-winning Flâneurs also received early exposure at Village Pub Theatre, and actors have included Andrew Dallmeyer, Gill Robertson and Louise Ludgate.

Ley says Orla O’Loughlin and Hamish Pirie at the Traverse Theatre have actively encouraged him, coming along to see the work and putting him on to writers, and that Playwrights Studio Scotland has helped with a small grant to pay the expenses of volunteer creatives. “It’s definitely a workshop,” he says of a format that largely consists of smaller pieces, “but it’s also a rough-and-ready chance to see work and enjoy it for what it is, because so many writers have so much work that never sees the light of day.”

It also seems to be an unintentional reminder that, while battles are fought and conversations are had elsewhere about Scottish arts funding, the desire and urge to communicate of the country’s theatre community will find a way for the message to reach its audience.

• The next Village Pub Theatre event is at the Village, Edinburgh on 28 September.

The Village Pub Theatre – July

Getting really excited about this month’s Village Pub Theatre!  There’s a social this evening, and readings of new work by Morna Pearson, James Ley, Colin Bell, Sam Siggs and myself on Friday and Saturday.  Hope to see you there!