Love the Sinner

Imogen Stirling

15 September 2022

Praised by Benjamin Zephaniah for her ‘lyrical genius’, poet, musician, theatre-maker and writer Imogen Stirling is an immense talent. Her show Love the Sinner is part of our young adults programme. We asked her about the event, about poetry and about her role in leading Wigtown’s young people’s writing programme.

Tell us a little about your show Love the Sinner - what can the audience expect?

Love The Sinner is a modern interpretation of the seven deadly sins, with each sin presented as a character living in a contemporary Scottish city. It’s rooted in performance poetry and is currently being adapted for theatre. The Wigtown performance will be a stripped back set of theatrical poetry accompanied by double bass – evocative, moody and percussive. Each sin has their own voice and narrative which tends to be what captures and holds an audience - it’s poetry for people who think poetry isn’t for them.

When did you start writing poetry and how did you become a performance poet?

I’ve always been drawn to reading poetry but didn’t find myself writing it until later on, my tendency is to write in a long-form, story-focused style which I worried didn’t fit the poetic mould. In 2017 I began immersing myself in performance poetry and the work of artists like Kae Tempest, Joelle Taylor and Shane Koyczan who revealed the bold, varied ways that poetry can exist. I have a background in music and theatre which I used as a platform for my writing, allowing the three to intersect and created genre-defying poetry intended for live performance.

Can poetry change lives?

It can certainly encourage confident, mindful expression, enabling you to write about what matters to you in a way that is direct and eloquent. Immediate person to person connection. When that’s paired with performance – when a person is literally claiming their space and making their voice heard - it becomes something immensely empowering. If that’s not life changing, I don’t know what is!

You are leading Wigtown Book Festival's young people's writing programme - what has that involved?

Since the start of the year, I’ve been running Wigtownshire Young Writers which is a brand new writer development programme for young people in Wigtownshire. We’ve focused on the theme of “finding your place” and used various poetic and creative writing techniques to explore and interrogate it with the view to creating a short pamphlet of writing by the end of the year. Some of the work produced really is remarkable. I’ve also been visiting schools around the region, introducing performance poetry to the young people and having a go at writing some together.

If young people want to find poetry that resonates with their own lives, where would be a good place to start?

I always recommend that people begin by looking at the work of Edinburgh-based I Am Loud – their YouTube channel is packed full of high quality performance poetry videos from UK poets. The channel is a perfect showcase of the multitude of ways that performance poetry can exist – the different stories that can be told and the different ways to tell them. I’m continually inspired by the range of artists they work with.

Imogen Stirling is standing singing into a microphone during a music event. A drum set and drummer are behind her.
Headshot of Imogen Stirling.