Poet Jackie Kay officially opens University plaza named in her honour

Jackie Kay cuts a ribbon with scissors to officially open the Plaza named in her honour.

Scottish poet and writer Professor Jackie Kay has officially opened a plaza named in her honour at the University of Strathclyde.

The Jackie Kay Plaza forms part of the Learning & Teaching Building on the University’s John Anderson campus in Glasgow city centre. The Plaza sits between two wings of the building – the Mary Dunn Wing and the Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Wing – which were created as part of a refurbishment of the former Colville and Architecture buildings. The names for all three were put forward by the University community following a consultation and vote in 2021.

Jackie Kay is a professor of creative writing at the University of Salford and, between March 2016 to 2021, she was Scotland’s Makar, or National Poet.

She has produced a wide range of work since her first poetry publication in 1991 The Adoption Papers, which won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award in 1992 and which explores themes of identity, race, nationality, gender, and sexuality.

Professor Kay has written, amongst other works, a novel titled Trumpet, a number of plays, a biography of African-American singer Bessie Smith, and a memoir called Red Dust Road.  She was made a Commander of the British Empire in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list.

Inspirational figure

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: “Professor Jackie Kay is one of Scotland’s foremost wordsmiths and an inspirational figure. This is clearly reflected through the Strathclyde community’s desire to see her achievements recognised on our campus through the naming of the Plaza.

“The Jackie Kay Plaza provides a welcoming outdoor space for all students, staff and visitors to relax and enjoy each other’s company and share the Strathclyde experience. We’re delighted Professor Kay could join us for this official ‘opening’.”

Professor Jackie Kay said: “I’m delighted that the University community voted to call the Plaza after me, the kind of thing that you might have thought might happen only after you were dead. But I’m very much alive! And alive to the nuances of renaming and naming our buildings, streets, and plazas after a whole new diverse generation of people.

I like the idea of people chilling in the Plaza, and that the Campus itself is named after a Burns poem, John Anderson. A double dose of poets!

Eva Curran, Strath Union President, said: “We're thrilled to have Jackie joining us at the opening of the Plaza. Our University's students and staff voted on a very fitting name for such a lovely and welcoming space. I'm glad that students will be reminded of Jackie Kay and her beautiful work every time they sit outside to enjoy the sunshine, or lack of.”

The Professor Mary Dunn Wing of the Learning and Teaching Building is named in honour of the University’s first female professor and Head of Department. The Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell Wing recognises the renowned Astrophysicist and first women President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Institute of Physics.