well read - The Word Festival
Written by Karen Martin
The Word Festival is one of Scotland’s most vibrant literary events. Celebrating its Scottish roots but with an international flavour, the festival hosts over 80 diverse events throughout the weekend of May 14-16.
The University of Aberdeen’s tenth Word Festival is a mixed bag of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, exhibitions, discussions, book launches, and debates. The event has grown from just 15 events when it began to the huge event it is today, featuring writers from England, Ireland, Wales, Italy, Poland, Spain, Australia, Guatemala, and Sierra Leone, as well as, of course, plenty of well-known and up-and-coming Scottish talent.
Attracting over 11,000 visitors, Word Festival makes an important contribution to literature and culture in the country.
The festival was started not only to highlight home-grown Scottish talent, but also as a way for the university to engage with the community in an accessible way, welcome people onto the campus, and to bring authors to the area who wouldn’t normally visit.
The line-up includes tributes to two Scotsmen who have played significant roles in Word’s
first nine festivals: poet and national treasure Edwin Morgan, celebrating his 90th year, and the late Aberdonian writer, ballad singer, and playwright Stanley Robertson.
Famous faces include Simon King, known to millions for his many programmes on the natural world – including Big Cat Diary. Celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity, the acclaimed author and film-maker discusses his new book, Shetland Diaries.
Literature meets science with events from Why does E=mc2? author Jeff Forshaw, who talks through the relationships between Einstein’s theory and how it relates to the world around us; and Simon Singh, author of bestselling science books about mathematics, cosmology, and cryptography.
Poet and academic Robert Crawford, who wrote a biography of Burns, The Bard, and author and critic Stuart Kelly, who has written a study of Scott and his influence, Scottland: How a Writer Invented a Nation, discuss two of Scotland’s most influential writers. The festival has also partnered up with Scottish Opera to premiere their new season of Five:15 – five new short operas written and created in Scotland.
Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland and raised in West Africa and the UK. Her first book The Devil that Danced on the Water was runner-up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003. Her novel Ancestor Stones was winner of the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the LiBeraturpreis in Germany, and selected by the Washington Post as one of the most important books of 2006. In 2007 Aminatta was named by Vanity Fair as one of Africa’s most promising new writers, and her work has been translated into nine languages.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Louise Welsh ran a second-hand bookshop for several years. She has been the recipient of several awards, including The John Creasey Memorial Dagger, the Saltire First Book Award, the Glenfiddich/Scotland on Sunday Spirit of Scotland Writing Award, and City of Glasgow Lord Provost’s Award for Literature. In 2007 she was included in Waterstone’s list of 25 authors for the future. She has also written for radio and stage, and her work has been translated into 20 languages. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.
Missing You Already
Kitty Fulton runs the ticket office at a remote railway station and her pet project is the lost and found, reuniting possessions with their rightful owners, something that remains elusive in her own life, as her mother’s Alzheimer’s pulls them farther apart and a close relationship with a childhood friend disintegrates. Kitty embarks on a journey that questions the importance of life and the way we must live.
Naming the Bones
Knee-deep in the mud of an ancient burial ground during a winter storm, and with at least one person intent on his death, Murray Watson’s quiet life in university libraries researching the lives of writers now seems a world away. It is because of the mysterious writer, Archie Lunan, dead for 30 years, that Murray now finds himself scrabbling in the dirt on the remote island of Lismore.
The Wrecking Light
Robin Robertson’s fourth collection is intense, moving, bleakly lyrical, and at times shocking. Written with the authority of classical myth, yet utterly contemporary, Robertson’s style is unflinching and clear; its utter seriousness leavened by a dry humour. The poems pitch the power and wonder of nature against the frailty and failure of the human race, with the kind of dream-like intensity of description that has become Robertson’s trademark.
The Memory of Love
Adrian Lockheart is a psychologist escaping his life in England. Arriving in Freetown in the wake of civil war, he encounters an unwell man, Elias Cole, who is reflecting on his past: an obsession with Saffia, a woman he loved, and Julius, her fiery husband. As their individual stories entwine across two generations in a country torn apart by repression and war, some distances cannot be bridged.
With a poet’s insight and a shrewd sense of human drama, Robert Crawford outlines how Burns combined a childhood steeped in the folk song culture of rural Scotland with a consummate linguistic artistry to become the world’s most popular love poet. This incisive biography demon-strates why the life and work of Scotland’s greatest poet still compels the attention of the world a quarter of a millennium after his birth.
This Is Not About Me
From her earliest years with a boozy, accident-prone father and a reluctantly pragmatic mother, Janice Galloway grew up vigilant. Then her parents’ marriage broke up, and her big sister Cora returned home; and with her snappy dress sense and matching temper, evasion became a way of life. This is a book about emergence as the beginnings of unsuspected rage push the silent girl towards her voice.
Dan Rhodes’ book Anthropology consists of 101 stories, each around 120 words in length, and all working highly surreal variations around a single theme: relationships. Rhodes highlights the essential absurdity of relationships and the fundamental incomprehension and misunderstandings that divide men and women; the desperate mismatches of affection; the hilarious disjunctions of perception; all are scrutinised in turn by the author’s cool, deadpan prose.
Why Does E=mc2?
A collaboration between two of the youngest professors in the UK, Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw consider the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up Einstein’s most famous equation. The authors demonstrate how, in order to truly understand why E=mc2, we first must understand how objects in our three-dimensional world actually move in four-dimensional space-time.
Coffee table book
Wild Life: Amazing Animals, Extraordinary People, Astonishing Places
From acting in a television drama called ‘The Fox’ aged ten (for which he looked after an orphaned fox for two years at home), through projects such as Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Springwatch, Autumnwatch, and Big Cat Diary to name just a few, Simon King has travelled to every continent and lived in extreme conditions from remote desert to the Arctic and Antarctic wildernesses. With characteristic honesty and charm, Simon King weaves his animal stories and encounters with extraordinary people and astonishing places into this incredible memoir.
Not Exactly…: Kees van Deemter