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A youth-led cross-arts festival exploring unconventional forms of expression

University of Aberdeen 

  WORD Centre for Creative Writing 



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We are delighted to bring you this year's varied and exciting programme, with most in-person events held in the University of Aberdeen arts and music performance space, King's Pavilion. There are also some online and livestreamed offerings, for those unable to join us in situ.


All venues are accessible and BSL interpretation is available throughout the festival, with captions for online events.


This year's festival includes a substantial Community strand with workshops running in Aberdeen city and shire venues from 17th September to 2nd October, most of which are open to the wider public (see the Community Events Programme).

We will be returning with a festival in 2023. Please sign up to our mailing list on the About page to stay in the loop. 

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Book Launch: Leila Aboulela's River Spirit

6:30 pm Tuesday 14th March 2023, Sir Duncan Rice Library, UoA Campus  

Book launch for the much awaited sixth novel by  Leila Aboulela, River Spirit. Join Honourary Professor of the WORD Centre Leila Aboulela for the Aberdeen Launch of River Spirit, a spellbinding new novel about an embattled young woman in the years leading up to the British conquest of Sudan. Chaired by Professor Nadia Kiwan. 

2022 Programme

2022 Programme

Tuesday 20th September

Tuesday 20th September

Book Launch: David Wheatley Stretto

5:30 - 6:30 pm  Tuesday 20th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus  

Join us for a special event to celebrate David Wheatley’s first novel, Stretto, a deft exploration at a time when perhaps fewer risks than ever are being taken with the fictional form. David’s interest in the French Nouveau Roman fuses with a story of travel and migration over twenty years, moving between Ireland, England and Scotland.

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Douglas Stuart in conversation with Alan Warner

7:30 - 8:30 pm  Tuesday 20th September, Online  

Scottish-American novelist and fashion designer, Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize with Shuggie Bain in 2020. His second novel, Young Mungo, has become an instant bestseller on publication this year. He talks to novelist Alan Warner about writing, transatlantic life, class, gender and much more.

Wednesday 21st September

Wednesday 21st September

Songwriting Workshop with Chamber Music Scotland

10.30am-12pm  Wednesday 21st September, King's Studio, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus 

In this practical, interactive workshop aspiring songwriters will have the opportunity to work with composer Gareth Williams and singer Cameron Nixon to create brand-new songs of their own. Gareth and Cameron will guide participants through the session, and share ideas and tips about the songwriting process.

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Performing Identities Panel: Aiberdeen Mannie and Celia Toks

1-2pm  Wednesday 21st September, Online

Join our panel discussion online, exploring the use of social media platforms for self-expression and the performance of identities and cultures, with artists Celia @celiatoks and Aiberdeen Mannie @aiberdeenmannie, who have both found success as ‘internet celebrities’ through their content on TikTok and Instagram.

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Art, Memory & Displacement with
Libertad Ansola Palazuelos and Enxhi Mandija 

Libertad Ansola Palazuelos and Enxhi Mandija create a dialogue across words and images exploring the relationship between imagination, memory, art and writing, the ways different art forms combine to generate new stories: a conversation with readings, chaired by Wayne Price. Their work will be exhibited in King’s Pavilion throughout the festival.

3:30-4:30pm  Wednesday 21st September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus  
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Monica Ali

5:30-6:30pm  Wednesday 21st September, Online 

Critically-acclaimed author Monica Ali (Brick Lane, Alentejo Blue, In the Kitchen, Untold Story) talks about her latest novel, Love Marriage, to Nadia Kiwan, followed by a live Q&A session.

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North-East Writers & Chamber Music Scotland

8-10:30pm (Doors open 7:30)  Wednesday 21st September, The Blue Lamp  

An evening of performances from traditional singer Cameron Nixon and a host of weel-kent NE writers and spoken word performers: Sahar Abdulla, Sheena Blackhall, Jo Gilbert and Shane Strachan, followed by Songs from the Last Page, a live music performance from Gareth Williams and musicians from Chamber Music Scotland, compèred by Mae Diansangu.

Thursday 22nd September

Thursday 22nd September

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Writing Landscape & Place Workshop with Ian Grosz

11am-12pm  Thursday 22nd September, King's Studio, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus

What role does place play in our lives and how can we approach the landscape to make it a focus for our writing? This one-hour workshop, led by Ian Grosz, will attempt the beginnings of an answer to this question. No prior experience is required other than an interest in creative writing, the landscape and the ways in which places help shape our lives.

Fan Fiction Panel: Judith Fathallah, MandalaRose and Katie Rathfelder

1-2pm  Thursday 22nd September, Online  

Join us for an online discussion of all things fanfiction, including fanfiction in academia, the jump to publishing, the collaborative aspect of fanfiction-writing, fanfiction as representation, and more!

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ArteEast: Sherko Abbas and Afsoon

3:30-4:30pm  Thursday 22nd September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA  Campus

Join Kurdish-Iraqi artist Sherko Abbas and Iranian-born, London-based artist Afsoon to learn about their practice and experience some of their work. WayWORD teams up with ArteEast’s Nathaniel Bowditch and Peacock & the worm’s Enxhi Mandija to showcase the work of two exciting visual artists.

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Wanderlust Women featuring Lesley Benzie and Noon Salah Eldin

5:30-6:30pm  Thursday 22nd September, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus  

Join three Wanderlust Women Lesley Benzie, Donna Campbell and Linda Jackson, together with Wander-in woman and guest artist Noon Salah Eldin, for a poetic exploration of travel in all its forms, geographical, mental, spiritual, political and imaginative.

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Jenny Colgan & Bee Asha Singh

7-8pm  Thursday 22nd September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus  

Why IS romantic fiction still marginalized within the ‘literary’ world in some ways? Join Jenny Colgan, best-selling author and Scottish Queen of Romantic Fiction, and Spoken Word artist Bee Asha Singh, who explores lived experience, sexuality, trauma and gender equality in a style between poetry and rap.

Friday 23rd September

Friday 23rd September

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Writing About Mental Health Workshop with Helen Taylor

11am-12pm  Friday 23rd September, King's Studio, King's Pavilion, UOA Campus

Join novelist and essayist, Helen Taylor for a workshop exploring the challenges and benefits of writing about our own mental health experiences. Is autobiography, life-writing, memoir, the way to go, or is it sometimes easier to write about mental health – your own or that of people close to you - in a fictional setting?

Book Launch: Rachelle Atalla The Pharmacist

1-2pm  Friday 23rd September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus 

Join us to celebrate Rachelle Atalla’s debut novel, The Pharmacist. Set in a dramatically oppressive, post-apocalyptic underground bunker where Wolfe is the resident pharmacist, tending to desperate needs and embroiled in dark power struggles, this is a captivating work. The Pharmacist examines motherhood, morality (or the loss of it), power struggles, love and desperation.

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Christopher Brookmyre at Aberdeen Central Library

NOW 3-4pm, Thursday 6th October, Aberdeen Central Library

One hen weekend, seven secrets…but only one worth killing for. Join the ever-ebullient Chris Brookmyre in the surroundings of Aberdeen Central Library, to celebrate his new novel, The Cliff House. A private island, a luxury getaway. They are alone. They think.


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Michael Pedersen

5:30-6:30pm  Friday 23rd September, Online  

Are friendships the greatest love affairs of our lives? And why is it that boys don’t hold hands? Award-winning poet Michael Pedersen talks about his prose debut, Boy Friends, an intimate memoir and moving tribute to Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison, who took his own life in 2018. This event includes a live Q&A with Michael.

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Alan Spence

7-8pm  Friday 23rd September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus  

Award-winning poet, playwright, novelist and short story writer, former Professor of Creative Writing at Aberdeen, Edinburgh Makar and WORD Festival Impresario, Alan Spence talks to Helen Lynch about his latest work, including a new haiku collection and a novel exploring Japanese cultural history, Mr Timeless Blyth.

Saturday 24th September

Saturday 24th September

Discussion: Gaming as a Narrative Art Form

10:30am-12 noon  Saturday 24th September, Online  

Steph Farnsworth, Adam Jerrett, and Velvet Spors deepdive into their research on the intersection of narrative and games studies, and how narrative and video games shape each other.

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Scottish Contemporary Drama: Debbie Hannan in conversation with Lucy Hinnie

1-2pm Saturday 24th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus

Newly-appointed Associate Artist and Director at the National Theatre of Scotland, and recent Acting Artistic Director at Stockroom, Debbie Hannan shares their work and talks about their practice and experiences developing new drama for stage and screen with polymath scholar, editor and improv comedian fae Huntly, Lucy Hinnie.

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Doric Dwams

12.30 & 3pm  Saturday 24th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus 

Performed by North-East writer Shane Strachan and Cellist Emily De Simone, Doric Dwams was composed by Aileen Sweeney, based on Shane’s haiku, savouring the distinctive sound and quality of place and dialect. Don’t miss the chance to catch these brief, pop-up performances for spoken word and cello.

Tattered Memory: Memoir with Timothy C. Baker and Helen Taylor

3:30-4:30pm  Saturday 24th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus

Authors of recent memoirs, Professor Timothy C. Baker and Dr Helen Taylor, discuss how to tell a life-story when your memory is in tatters or there are no records of the story you want to tell.

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Raymond Antrobus

5:30-6:30pm  Saturday 24th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus  

A chance to hear award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus discuss his new collection, All The Names Given, an intimate, personal exploration of names, inheritance and identity.

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Centre for the Novel: C.J. Cooke

7-8pm  Saturday 24th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus

Hear about C. J. Cooke’s most recent novel, The Lighthouse Witches, a haunting tale of mystery, history and witchcraft, set on a remote Scottish island. Hosted by the University of Aberdeen Centre for the Novel.

Sunday 25th September

Sunday 25th September

Gaelic Song Workshop with Eva Brownlie

10:30am-12pm  Sunday 25th September, King’s Studio, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus 

Learn some Gaelic Songs with accomplished Gaelic singer Eva Brownlie. Beginners welcome. This event is brought to you in partnership with Scottish Culture and Traditions Associations’ SC&T Youth.

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Queer Horror Panel: Ever Dundas, Bibi June and Jonny Sims

1-2pm  Sunday 25th September, King's College Conference Centre, UOA Campus

What makes for queer horror? Join award-winning creators Jonathan Sims, writer and narrator of horror fiction podcast The Magnus Archives, Bibi June, co-creator of queer horror podcast Folxlore, and horror and sci-fi novelist, Ever Dundas, author of Goblin, and forthcoming HellSans, as we discuss what makes queer horror what it is.

Singing Workshop with Polish-Scottish Song Group

1-2pm Sunday 25th September, King's Studio, Kings Pavilion, UoA Campus  

You don’t have to be Scottish or Polish to come along to this fun singing session led by well-known North-East singer and tradition bearer Janice Reavell together with the Polish-Scottish Singing Group. Learn some new traditional songs and meet some new people in a friendly atmosphere.

Polish-Scottish Choir Performance

3pm Sunday 25th September, Main Hall, Kings Pavilion, UoA Campus  

Listen to the Polish-Scottish Song Group, led by Janice Reavell, sing a selection of Polish and Scottish Songs.

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Padraig Regan & Naush Sabah

3:30-4:30pm  Sunday 25th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion, UoA Campus

Poets Naush Sabah and Padraig Regan share work from recently-published collections, exploring themes of embodiment, identity, the self and the world.

South Asian Dance Performance by Shashwati Pattwakar Vinod

5pm  Sunday 25th September, Main Hall, Kings Pavilion, UOA Campus

South Asian Classical Dancer Shashwati Pattwakar Vinod gives a pop-up performance. Don't miss it.

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Nan Shepherd Event: Sarah Thomas and Esther Woolfson

5:30-6:30pm  Sunday 25th September, Main Hall, King's Pavilion UOA Campus

Writing in the tradition of Nan Shepherd while bringing new insights into the connection between people and place, Sarah Thomas and Esther Woolfson explore our relationships with animals and environments. This conversation combines science, nature writing, and memoir to discuss everything from ravens to spiders, and Iceland to Aberdeen.

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Writers’ Showcase with Leopard Arts and Mearns Writers

7-8:30pm  Sunday 25th September, Online 

A showcase of local talent: Leopard Arts and Mearns Writers, two North-East arts platforms, share work from their communities of poets and writers. Grassroots local arts at its finest.

Community Events

Community Events

These events are running in throughout the festival in conjunction with local community groups  

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Concrete Poetry & Letterpress Workshop

10am-1pm  BST Saturday 17th September, The Worm, 11 Castle Street, AB11 5BQ

Try your hand at letterpress printing to create a collaborative concrete poem with printmaker Neil Corall and writer Enxhi Mandija at Peacock: a workshop for art. Tickets for this event are limited with a waitlist.

The Space Between the Panels - Comic Book Workshop

2:30-4pm BST  Saturday 17th September, Crafty Cafe, Kintore, AB51 0UA

Join comic creators Dr Ewen Cameron Millar and Chris Robertson as they talk about life in the trenches making comics for the small press. Get involved with brainstorming ideas and getting started in the wild and quixotic world of sequential comic art. Minimum age 12 years.

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Children's Poetry Workshop with Matt Kinghorn

Tuesday 20th September, Riverbank Primary School (not open to public) 

Poet and co-creator of young children’s classic Dreams Can Come Moo, Matt Kinghorn will be giving a storytelling and poetry workshop for Primary Twos at Riverbank Primary to get them creating some poems and stories of their own.

Comic Creators Assemble: Workshop at Airyhall Library

Friday 23rd September 1.30 -3pm BST, Airyhall Library, AB15 7RF

Explore the different ways comics tell stories and then create your own comic, cram packed with your own amazing characters having fantastic adventures, all with the help of author, storyteller and comic writer Paul Bristow. Aimed at 8-12 year-olds.

Words, Images & the Deeper Self: therapeutic photography and poetry workshop 

 1- 3 pm BST Sunday 2nd October 2022, Aberdeen Art Gallery

A picture is worth 1000 words…but why should photography and language be separated? When combined, they can reveal truths and help us make sense of the world around us. How can we use photography in a therapeutic way, and can linking words and images explore feelings and enhance creativity?

Wednesday 21st
Tuesday 20th
Thursday 22nd
Saturday 24th
Friday 23rd
Sunday 25th

Hazlehead Academy

Hazlehead Academy

Throughout 2022 we have been working with
Hazlehead Academy on devising events for young people 

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Maya MacGregor

Thursday 22nd September (livestreamed on Instagram)

‘Queer elder entie’ and Glaswegian writer Maya MacGregor discusses queerness and autism in their thrilling young adult debut, The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester.  Sam Sylvester’s gripping unravelling of a 30-year-old murder mystery offers readers a beautiful vision of love and uniqueness.

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Art for Life 

Monday 15th September 2022 (not open to public) 

A number of local practitioners will showcase their varied artistic mediums in this one-off event, hosted by WayWORD’s Youth Committee at Hazlehead Academy.  Celebrating different creatures, this event for young people will develop passion and creativity in exciting and interactive workshops. 

Colorful Books
Love For All

Tuesday 16th & Wednesday 17th September (not open to public) 

WayWORD’s Youth Committee at Hazlehead Academy are hosting workshops for local primary school children, with the theme of inclusion at their heart.  Celebrating the joys of stories, friendship and creativity, these events for little ones will explore and promote acceptance and love in all its forms.

Equality Alliance: Love Wins w/ Outlines 

February 2022 - LGBT History Month 

Working with Outlines Collective, pupils from Hazlehead Academy Equality Alliance learned about Art and Activism to devise their own permenant graffiti mural on school premises. Researched, designed and painted by Equality Alliance members and Outlines Collective. 

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