Collaboration Takes Centre Stage with Byre World

Jamie Locke-Jones
Friday 19 August 2022

St Andrews is a small town that plays host to an internationally recognised university. With space at a premium, one of the prerequisites to the University of St Andrews outstanding research quality and student satisfaction has been to use creatively the world-leading facilities at our disposal. The School of Modern Languages hosts a long-running example of this in its Byre World programme, which features four or five research-led public events per semester at the University’s Byre Theatre.

Since opening in 1993, the Byre Theatre has been recognised across the University and the North East Fife community as an invaluable cultural resource. Featuring a fully equipped theatre, a black-box studio, an exhibition space and a split-level foyer area with seating, the space is well-equipped to host a wide variety of events, and it has been used accordingly. Alongside more traditional theatre such as Thunderstruck, an award-winning production from David Colvin, the Byre hosts a regular film club and the St Andrews Death Café, an open conversation on making the most of our finite lives.

Byre World embodies this flexibility by using different mediums to offer a window into the cultures of the wider world. The programme, which has been running successfully since September 2015, places community engagement at the heart of its operations. Events range from art exhibitions, film screenings, and musical and dance performances, to participatory workshops, interviews, and discussion events, each organised and led by a researcher or a PhD student from the School of Modern Languages.  All events are free to attend and include a question and answer session.

The Byre World events take place in Byre’s Lawrence Levy Studio, which can be easily adapted to different formats. This flexibility is an asset to Byre World, which uses different media to discuss topics as varied as medieval storytelling, veterans’ anti-war art, photography of Italian emigrees, and fiction inspired by exoplanet science at St Andrews. See last semester’s programme below:

In 2017, the School launched a residency programme for Modern Languages Writers and Translators, further strengthening the links between St Andrews and the international scholarly community. This programme has enabled Modern Languages students to learn directly from creators in the cultures they study; it also has helped to invigorate the town’s cultural life as a whole through Byre World. Writers and translators in residence are encouraged to engage with the community through the Byre World platform, further extending the cultural reach of the programme. Thomas Meinecke, a German DJ and writer who was hosted at St Andrews by the School, participated in a public event on ‘Emotions and Gender in Techno and Electronic Dance Music Culture’ with Scottish DJ and activist Nightwave. The event combined music and a discussion of techno and dance music culture, the reactions it can generate and its relation to gender. It also demonstrated the ability of Byre World to bring different nationalities together in a celebration of the diversities and similarities of global cultures.

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