Push The Boat Out (PTBO) is Scotland's newest and (somehow only) second-ever poetry festival. We are inspired by the vibrancy and range of contemporary poetry, hip hop, and spoken word coming out of Scotland, the UK, and further afield. Our aim is to not only give poetry a new platform, but to create an environment where all variations of this vital artform are encouraged to grow, evolve and even collide. We want to boundary-bend and explore fresh, inventive ways to bring poetry and audiences together by challenging perceptions of what poetry is and how it can be enjoyed.
'At Eighty', the late great Edwin Morgan’s unforgettable poem, is our namesake. The work is forward-looking and progressive; it encapsulates his persistent, indefatigable curiosity for the unknown, whatever it holds, come what may. Launched in the centenary year of Edwin’s birth, one of the most difficult and unpredictable of recent times, our project pays homage to his inestimable contribution to poetry and to his restless pioneering spirit.
Underpinning the festival are four key themes: social justice and representation; healing and recovery; climate crisis and ecopoetics; and virtual and other realities. Audiences can expect first-class performances from around 60 poets, emerging and established.
PTBO will take place within the creative spaces of Summerhall in Edinburgh, seeping into every nook and cranny of this established arts venue through multiple means - film, imagery, music, dance, debate and other forms of poetry performance. We have also commissioned over sixty poems for our free web app 'A Poetry Mile', on which users can experience Edinburgh differently, filtered through the eyes and ears of some of the country’s finest poets. The app generates bespoke walking tours depending on user preferences and will be available long after our festival is over.
The brainchild of director Jenny Niven, former head of literature at Creative Scotland, and co-founder Kevin Williamson, writer, publisher and co-founder of Neu! Reekie!, PTBO is convinced of the need for poetry more now than ever before, particularly as we emerge from lengthy lockdowns and seek new ways to express ourselves.
Poetry, whether political, personal or lyrical, whether it's written, performed, rapped, sung or signed, has been growing its audience at an unprecedented rate over the last decade. Especially now, it remains starkly apparent that we need the arts - for solace, for expression, for community, for resistance, for fun. So, despite the challenging circumstances, or maybe because of them, we'll be pushing our boat out in October 2021, keeping with whatever Covid-19 regulations are in place. Born out of a time of turbulence, the festival team, venue, founders and friends will continue to manage our festival in a safe and agile way.
Jenny Niven, Director & Co-Founder
After a decade of directing festivals and events programs in Beijing and Melbourne, Jenny Niven spent 2014-2019 as head of literature at Creative Scotland. She brings to the table both an appetite and a vision for a new, progressive, festival model which is celebratory and inclusive. Perennially interested in the ideas which are fueling, inspiring and troubling our writers and thinkers, she is interested in new ways to have public conversations which centre the arts and creative thinking, to spread the word about Scotland’s brilliant writing, and to bring new poets and their ideas to our shores.
Jenny is the mastermind leading the festival across both artistic and executive development.
Kevin Williamson, Co-Founder & Creative Consultant
Throughout 2019, Kevin Williamson embarked on a poetic Odyssey, reading more than 500 poetry collections and pamphlets, in order to post a chosen selected poem, on Twitter, every day of the year. Through this exploration he became convinced of a vibrancy and dynamic which exists in contemporary poetry that looks markedly different from the poetic landscape 15-20 years ago. With ten years of experience producing live events in poetry with Neu! Reekie! (and a hinterland in ambitious, radical publishing), the idea for a poetry festival was born.
Kev heads on lots of our artist liaising and event planning, making sure we keep thinking way outside any box.
Julie Amphlett, Operations Manager
Julie Amphlett started her career as an auditor and accountant and has come to specialise in charity accounting. Since leaving auditing fifteen years ago, she has been a theatre technician, venue manager, managed the Live Literature Fund at the Scottish Book Trust, and was Head of Operations and Finance at Edinburgh International Book Festival for five years. As a strong problem solver, Julie thrives in finding creative financial and operational solutions and enables artists and producers to make their visions a reality.
Julie is making sure all PTBO events and people have everything we need and that our numbers all add up.
Esa Aldegheri, Engagement & Sustainability Manager
Esa Aldegheri is a multilingual writer and academic from Scotland and Italy. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies – most recently in Umbrellas of Edinburgh, 2020 edition - and was highly commended for the 2019 Gingko Ecopoetry Prize. Her prose has been published by Granta, Gutter, the Dangerous Women Project and has featured on BBC Radio 4's 'Book of the Week'. She is completing an ESRC-funded PhD at the University of Glasgow, researching forced migration, encounter, integration and story exchange. She is a Lead Reader for Open Book, sharing and making poetry with women from Syria in Edinburgh. She loves reading maps and climbing trees.
Esa leads on PTBO’s engagement work, currently developing exciting and nourishing projects with WHALE Arts, Open Book and Parabola. She is also steering our sustainability approach across the festival.
Tuesday McPhail, Program Producer
Tuesday is a Freelance Producer and Project Manager, specialising in Festivals and Theatre Management. Tuesday has worked with notable Scottish companies such as The Tron Theatre, Vanishing Point, Brite Theatre, Company of Wolves and internationally with the Abu Dhabi Science Festival and Adelaide Fringe. Prior to this, Tuesday worked as Underbelly’s Operations Manager delivering operational planning for their Edinburgh Festivals. Tuesday came to her career through her background as a cellist, and still enjoys the odd concert performing with orchestras and at weddings.
She does everything program production at PTBO, lining up all of our artists and scheduling and keeping us ducks in our rows.
Julia Sorensen, Communications Manager
Julia Sorensen is a poet laureate and a published writer, musician, and visual artist from Treaty Six territory in Canada. She has performed spoken word and music at home at venues like Edmonton Poetry Festival and abroad at Berlin Spoken Word. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English, German, and Arts and Cultural Management from the University of Alberta and is currently completing her MA in Arts, Festival & Cultural Management at Queen Margaret University. Julia has produced poetry events, run writing workshops, and organised festivals for five years.
Julia leads on all things communications for PTBO - website, socials, and newsletters. She’s also supporting program development and lends an oar across the team.