In October and November Tartu will host the fifth writer-in-residence of the City of Literature international residency program. Andy Willoughby is a poet and playwright from the UK who specialises in training new poets in page and performance skills and in working on social projects with hard to reach groups. He has regularly collaborated with poets and musicians from Estonia and Finland. He has co-translated and published numerous international poets and regularly hosts diverse poetry and music nights at The Electric Kool-Aid Cabaret in his hometown of Middlesbrough in North East England. He is also a qualified Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing.
Willoughby has performed at festivals in Estonia several times and the Estonian readers might know his work already since 2015 when Willoughby’s and his colleague’s Bob Beagrie’s book „Sampo: Heading Further North“ (translated by Kersti Unt) was published in Estonia, The book has been insired by the Finnish epic „Kalevala“ and Fenno-Ugrian mythology.
The decision of the selection committee was driven by the existing and possible future collaborations as well as Willoughby’s deep interest in Tartu and the potential creative impact of the experience. In an interview given for the Prima Vista festival issue of the national daily Postimees this spring, Willoughby has described his impression of Tartu and its literary scene: „I was struck by the openness of the Tartu festivals to experimental ideas, I love the variety I’ve seen there from folk poetry, traditional singing to dadaist sound poetry, experimental theatre and Slam. Over the years I’ve seen Tartu grow in confidence into one of my favourite literary cities and I was really happy to debut my first full performance of my Between Stations Live Spoken Word Multimedia and Music show at Prima Vista in 2017. I think the scene there is thriving with a growing internationalism whilst not losing its folk roots.“
The residency program, open to all writers and translators (translating from Estonian to other languages) from across the world, is part of the activity plan of Tartu as UNESCO City of Literature and has been inspired by our partners in the network where the number of such progmmes is rapidly growing. The 2019 autumn call for applications was announced in July and the committee was once again delighted by the diversity and commitment of the applicants: there were 32 candidates althogether from Australia, Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. The applications were evaluated by a committee of four: Berk Vaher (Estonian Writers Union), Krista Ojasaar (Estonian Literary Museum), Janika Kronberg (Karl Ristikivi Society), and Marja Unt (Estonian Literary Society/Tartu City of Literature Office).
The residency program was first announced in 2017 and since then Tartu has already hosted four writers-in-residence: Andrej Tomažin from Slovenia, Darran Anderson from Ireland, Gabi Csutak from Hungary, and Ron Whitehead from USA.
Estonian Literary Society / Tartu City of Literature Office