Professor Alan Spence and Dr Helen Lynch recently took part in an annual Festival in Poland.
The annual Pomiedzy / Between Festival in Sopot, Poland, which is now in its fifth year, took place last month. Pomiedzycombines an academic conference with a literary festival and theatre performances. The event is organised by Professor David Malcolm of the University of Gdansk and the theme for this year was New Beginnings in Scottish Literature.
As well as Professor Spence and Dr Lynch, other taking part included; renowned Scottish journalist and historian Neal Ascherson, Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, and eminent Polish novelist Stefan Chwin.
Professor Spence gave a plenary lecture on Zen in Scottish Literature, a reading from his novel Night Boat and a further reading of his poetry. Dr Lynch read from her short story collection The Elephant and the Polish Question, took part in panel discussions, and conducted a seminar with Prof. Spence on a text by Scottish novelist Ali Smith.
Papers read at the conference covered a wide range of Scottish writers, from Burns and Fergusson to MacDiarmid and Sorley Maclean, to Edwin Morgan and Muriel Spark, Jackie Kay and Irvine Welsh. There were discussions on the gothic, the fantastical and ‘Tartan Noir.’
In addition to the theatre productions by the legendary Gardzienice Company, there were film screenings and a ceilidh evening, which was organised by Dr Lynch.
The contribution of the Aberdeen contingent to the week’s events was praised by Professor Malcolm, a graduate of Aberdeen and a participant in last year’s May Festival.
He said: “Without the participation of Prof Spence and Dr Lynch, the festival and conference would have been immeasurably poorer. Their readings were two of the highlights of the festival, and their contributions to the academic portions of the event were stimulating and insightful. Alan Spence held audiences enthralled as he read from Night Boat and recited haiku. Listeners of varying ages (some too young to remember the days before 1989) were deeply fascinated and moved by Helen Lynch’s stories of dark times and bad weather in the Polish People’s Republic. Music, wit, humour, insight, great narratives, teasing koans, lovely haiku, vividly captured memories of queues and wind - who could have asked for more? We’re very grateful they came - like the swallows and martins - to Sopot in May. They gave us a lot.”