Plans for this year’s book festival are well under way, with a variety of writers and artists set to visit Shetland for Wordplay 2009, Shetland Arts’ 8th annual book festival which will be held in Islesburgh Community Centre on the 5th and 6th of September.
One writer who will need very little introduction is Louis de Bernieres, perhaps best known for his best selling novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (1994) winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Novel. A Partisan’s Daughter (2008) was short listed for the Costa Novel Award and his new book, Notwithstanding: English Village Stories is due to be published this autumn. As well as writing, he plays the flute, mandolin, clarinet and guitar, and performs regularly with the Antonius Players.
Another festival guest, coming to Shetland for the first time, is the acclaimed writer, animator, broadcaster and artist, Steven Appleby who lives in a garden shed in London besieged by children and sycophantic cats. Over the past 23 years his work has appeared in newspapers (including The Guardian, The Times and The Sunday Telegraph), over 20 books (including Men: The Truth; Normal Sex; Antmen Carry away My Thoughts As Soon As I Think Them and Jim – The 9 Lives of a Dysfunctional Cat), television (the animated series Captain Star), BBC Radio 4 (Steven Appleby’s Normal Life), theatre (Crocs In Frocks) and on the walls of art galleries and private homes.
Adding to the eclectic feel of Wordplay 2009 is Mark McCrum, a writer of thirty years experience which includes work as a travel writer – Happy Sad Land (1994), and a ghost writer Jack and Zena (1997). Mark has also written about television – he wrote a book about Castaway. In 2001 he published Somebody, Someday in which he chronicled a tour with pop star Robbie Williams.
Another writer who will require little introduction to Shetland readers, especially young Shetland readers, is Mairi Hedderwick, the author and illustrator of the massively popular, Katie Morag stories. Mairi will be making a very welcome return to Shetland, in the company of Katie Morag, for her first appearance at Wordplay. As well as her books for children, Mairi Hedderwick has also written for adults, and her book, A Highland Journey: Sketching Tour of the Highlands, Retracing the steps of John T Reid, which follows the footsteps of the Victorian artist who travelled extensively in the Highlands and Islands, including Shetland (which he wrote about in Art and Rambles in Shetland).
Two other children’s writers who will make the trip north for Wordplay are, Keith Brumpton and John Fardell. Apart from a growing list of illustrated books which include such titles as Chariots on Fire and Curse of the Vampire Squirrels, Keith Brumpton has also devised and written TV programmes, including BBC's spy show M.I High. Keith will run drawing workshops for young people. John Fardell, In addition to writing and illustrating children's books – Manfred the Baddie, The Flight of the Silver Turtle - is also a cartoonist, and his work has appeared in various publications including The Independent, The Herald, The List, and Viz.
There is a strong crime theme, with three of the UK’s best selling and most talented crime writers due to appear. Shetland crime enthusiasts will need no introduction to Stuart MacBride, author of Cold Granite, Broken Skin, Dying Light and Flesh House all set in Aberdeen and featuring DS Logan Macrae, whose new book, Blind Eye is now published in hardback by Harper Collins.
Stuart will appear alongside his compatriot, Allan Guthrie, author of five novels, the most recent of which, “Slammer” was described in the Scotsman as “ the most relentlessly page-turning novel this reviewer has come across in a long, long time…” As well as a leading novelist, Allan is an editor and a literary agent with Jenny Brown Associates.
Also no stranger to Shetland is Ann Cleeves, author of the highly successful “Raven Black”, “White Nights” and the newly published “Red Bones”, three quarters of her Shetland Quartet of novels featuring Fair Isle born detective Jimmy Perez. Ann will take part in a very special event featuring her friend CSI Helen Pepper a lecturer at Teesdale University, which will involve Helen taking the audience through one of the crime scenes from Ann’s novels and examining it from the perspective of a professional Crime Scene Investigator. Ann and Helen will also run a series of workshops in Shetland schools in the week before the festival.
Continuing the crime writing theme and expanding on it, Ann Cleeves will join leading television writer, Mark Greig in conversation. A writer with a long pedigree and an enviable track record, Greig’s work includes, Ashes to Ashes, Life on Mars, The Bill and Taggart. In this session, both writers will discuss the similarities and the differences they experience in their different forms of writing.
Combining fact and fiction will be three Shetland residents, Tom Morton, Donald S Murray and Donald McDonald who will explore the importance of landscape to their writing. Listeners to Radio Scotland’s afternoon programme will of course be familiar to Tom Morton who has published a string of fine novels – the latest of which, Serpentine, (Mainstream Publishing (4 Jun 2009) is currently available in paperback. Appearing with Tom will be Donald McDonald who has published two books via the internet – Antichaos and Palindrome (lulu.com) - both of which combine dark humour with a keen eye for human foibles. Pitching in from a non-fiction perspective, is Donald S Murray, whose latest book, The Guga Hunters , was published in 2088 by Birlinn Books. The book is a fascinating history of the men of Ness, in the Butt of Lewis, of which Murray is himself a native, who set off every summer to the remote skerry of Sulisgeir, to catch the gannet chicks which they preserve for eating. The book has met with great critical acclaim, not least from Will Self who reviewed it glowingly, in the Daily Telegraph.
As well as the crime fiction, children’s fiction and literary fiction, the festival will also feature a bevy of truly exceptional poets with readings featuring, 2008 TS Eliot prize winner, Jen Hadfield – Almanacs ( Bloodaxe 2005) and Nigh No Place (Bloodaxe 2007). Jen will be joined by Tivoli Prize winner, Kevin MacNeil - Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides (Canongate 1998), himself until very recently a resident in Shetland. Also appearing is, Gerry Cambridge, editor of Scottish-American, literary magazine, Dark Horse, and several volumes of poetry including Aves (Essence Press, 2007; reprinted 2008), a collection of prose poems about wild birds; and Madame Fi Fi’s Farewell and Other Poems (Luath, 2003); and ‘Nothing but Heather!’: Scottish Nature in Poems, Photographs and Prose (Luath, 1999; 2nd edition, 2008). As well as his appearances at the festival, Gerry will be working as creative writer in residence in Shetland Primary Schools. Shetland resident is Gordon Dargie, whose talent came to the attention of the Scottish literary world with the publication of tunnel of love earlier this year, by prestigious pamphlet imprint Kettillonia Press poems from which were also published in the Scottish Review of Books and The Herald.
A star attraction at the festival will be an appearance by Puppet State Theatre, who will perform their hit show, The Man Who Planted Trees. The show has been a sell out for three successive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has another run in Edinburgh this year. A captivating adaptation of Jean Giono's environmental cult classic. A French shepherd sets out with his dog to plant a forest and transform a barren wasteland… this show is suitable for anybody over the age of seven and is a must see. "IT IS VERY, very rare to find something that appeals as effortlessly to children and adults as this magical show ..." Scotsman, 5 Stars
Literature development Officer Donald Anderson said, “this year’s festival seems to be particularly busy and we are delighted to have such a wide range of literature related activity on offer and once again to welcome so many fine writers and artists to Wordplay.”
Tickets for all festival events are available from the Shetland Box Office - 01595 745 555 from Friday 7th August. Discount rates are available for tickets purchased before August 28th. For details see the festival programme, which can collected from Shetland Arts offices at Toll Clock Centre, Lerwick and venues around Shetland and downloaded from shetlandart.org/events/wordplay