The Monthly discusses poetry and performance with Scottish Poet, Jenny Lindsay – Part 3

Part two of this interview is here

What direction does your career take after 2010?

Again, I had all sorts of jobs, I was a Homelessness Warden for Edinburgh City Council. Then, in 2011 Red Squirrel Press offered me the chance to publish a collection. That came out at the same time I was training to be a High School teacher, which was a bit ironic really considering how much I hated high school. But I adored teaching and took to it very well.

In late 2011 I met Rachel McCrum, and sometimes you just get lucky and you meet someone who you just hit it off with creatively. We decided to establish a new late night cabaret style event, that had poetry, theatre, even dancing. We started “Rally and Broad” in 2012.

Rachel McCrum

I was also involved in the independence campaign at that time (2012 – 2014) as well. I was part of the cultural campaign for independence and that was the period where spoken word really seemed to be taking off in terms of popularity in Scotland as well as elsewhere. There was a sense that the independence referendum shone a light on Scottish politics and culture and there was an incredible appetite for live performance of all kinds really.

You produce a solo show around this time?

Yes, in 2015 I produced my first solo show. The show was called “Ire and Salt”, and was about my time during the independence campaign and issues to do with power hierarchies, the difference between campaigns and movements… It also featured a reimagined ‘Julia’ from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The show did quite well, was given acclaim by The Scotsman, even though it was almost unmarketable, as you can probably tell from that description! Rally & Broad ran from 2012 – early 2016, with Season 4 wrapping up our best season yet. McCrum was emigrating to Canada in 2016 so during our last season I was also thinking of what to do next.

What do you come up with?

I set up “Flint and Pitch Productions”. I ran three sets of different styles of events across three venues: cabaret style shows at The Bongo Club; spoken word theatre shows at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and three massive full-scale Variety Nights at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. I was also doing independent event commissions and trying to write too.

That really was exhausting and I came to the point where I just had to rethink everything. Successful as it was, it wasn’t bringing me anything like the joy I used to have in events programming. I remember the seminal moment was when I found myself standing, alone, outside the Lyceum Theatre after a brilliant show; but I had just been told my grandmother was dying and I had just had to put on a brave face to host the show. In mid 2017 I decided to change the way I was working entirely.

What changes do you make?

I decided to stop promoting shows on my own, and I built a little team around me to help with one-off events (rather than producing event series as before) and from then on I concentrated far more on my own writing.

I wrote a work in progress show called This Script and presented it, firstly, in 2018. I then applied for and received funding in order to produce the show properly, write my second collection, and produce a suite of film poems with Loud Poets. I had a proper director for the first time. This Script was launched to a lot of acclaim for the stage show and films, including a John Byrne Award for Critical Thinking, and I’ll be re-releasing a new, expanded, revised edition of the book in early 2022.

Where to now?

I am writing my first novel at the moment, which is a new and exciting process! I’ve plot ideas for three novels and am working on the third poetry collection too, alongside various commissions.

I have had quite a tough time in the Scottish poetry scene over the last few years, which I wrote about for The Dark Horse literary journal in 2020. But I am also concerned about some trends in Scottish letters more generally, so am planning to just keep writing and hopefully rising above these. I don’t envision going back to programming for a good number of years, if at all.

I have plenty to keep me busy; “This Script” will be back on in 2022 and writing and my education work, including a current project with Scottish Opera, takes up a lot of time. I’m generally in a pretty good place and am now based in Ayrshire, which is a lovely place to write.
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