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Shetland Arts’ annual literature festival took place at the end of November, to coincide with Scottish Book Week.

Shetland Arts’ annual literature festival took place at the end of November, to coincide with Scottish Book Week. In partnership with the Shetland Library and SIC Creative Links, we programmed 21 events and workshops for all ages, which included readings from award winning authors, workshops and lectures on poetry, prose, songwriting and comic book creation, visits to schools across Shetland, an evening and book launch with local writers, and drop in sessions celebrating the joy of literature.

Our opening event was an evening with the Scots Makar Jackie Kay, who used her work in poetry and prose to discuss issues of identity, power of place, friendship, family, sex, race and politics.

As Louise Thomason of Shetnews wrote: “Appointed national poet for Scotland in March of this year, Kay's event opened the Wordplay 2016 festival, and a better opening it would have been difficult to find. Kay has visited Shetland several times, and on this occasion she instantly put the audience at ease with her affable manner. The range of emotion running through her poetry is as varied as the subject manner and her joyous, warm delivery made it a delightful - and extraordinarily quick - hour.

Jackie Kay also led workshops for local writers, which were very well received. One of these workshops was with senior pupils at the Anderson High School, where participants were guided by Kay to create some impressive pieces of poetry and prose.

Another highlight of the festival was the visit from Horatio Clare, who led a workshop with Jane Matthews on their book Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot.

Keegan Murray from the Shetland Times was in attendance and wrote: “An award winning children’s book illustrated by Shetland based artist Jane Matthews was the subject of a fun interactive event at Mareel on Sunday morning. Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is the work of Welshman Horatio Clare, whose story tackles heavy subject matter in a way that makes it accessible to children. Jane’s drawings, which were shown behind Horatio as he read from the book, illustrate the tale. In the latter half of the hour long event the children in attendance were invited to create their own villain by piecing together drawings of different body parts. The youngsters were undoubtedly thrilled by this interactive opportunity and were even happier to hear that their creation may make a cameo appearance in Horatio’s sequel which will once again be illustrated by Jane.

Adding to the variety of the festival line-up was comic book artist Edward Ross, whose graphic novel Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film was explored in a lively and interesting discussion with Shetland Arts’ Film Quiz host and local comedian Marjolein Robertson.


Edward also led a fascinating workshop on comic creation, which was attended by Shetnews’ Alex Garrick-Wright: “None of the participants left the workshop prepared to write the next Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, nor did anyone learn how to draw hands properly. What everyone did leave with was a new appreciation for comics as a medium of communication and storytelling. It was an interesting, enjoyable and different addition to the book festival; a conscious effort to include non-traditional literature alongside the prose and poetry that you might expect. Hopefully Wordplay 2017 continues in the same vein.”

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