Wordplay 2010 will bring a packed programme of delights to Islesburgh Community Centre in Lerwick on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th September. Shetland Arts are delighted to confirm a line up of guests that includes, TV wildlife star, Simon King, leading film critic, Mark Kermode, award winning, best selling novelist, James Robertson and leading playwright, David Harrower.
The festival will feature a glorious variety of events including writing workshops as well as author events, children’s events and will feature an eclectic mix of writing, including, children’s fiction, literary fiction, poetry, erotic fiction, film criticism, song writing and writing for the stage. an interactive online programme can be viewed at Wordplay.
Celebrating Wordplay’s close connections with Screenplay, Shetland’s Film Festival, the event will feature renowned, film critic, writer and broadcaster, Mark Kermode who will make a welcome return to Wordplay in order to talk about, read from, ask questions about and even sign his new book, “It’s Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive” (Random House).
Continuing the celebration of the relationship between page and screen is Simon King who will make a return visit to Shetland in order to appear at the festival after the highly successful launch of “The Shetland Diaries” in the Town Hall earlier this year.
Wordplay will feature a strong musical element this year, in harmony with Screenplay. This will take the shape of the legendary Michael Gray, the world’s leading authority on the work of Bob Dylan whose pioneering work, “Song and Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan” led the way in developing a literary appreciation of the man’s work. Thirty year s and two editions later we have Song and Dance Man III, a book of genuine weight, which contains a 152 page study of Dylan’s use of the lyric poetry of the pre-war blues in his work. This will be explored in his second talk of the weekend, “Bob Dylan and the Poetry of the Blues”. Michael Gray, who is renowned as a thoroughly engaging and entertaining speaker, has also written a book about the great bluesman, Blind Willie McTell, “Hand me My Travelling Shoes: in Search of Blind Willie McTell” (Bloomsbury) which is the title of his first talk.
Another key element of the music literature theme is provided by Will Kaufman, Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire who will be doing some hard travelling himself in order to present his acclaimed live documentary, “ Hard Times and Hard Travelling: the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie.” Dr Kaufman, himself no mean singer and guitarist provides what Ralph McTell has described as “the fastest hour and a half you will ever experience” in a presentation that will involve images and live performances oby Dr Kaufman of the great American icon’s songs as well as other songs of the period.
As well as the music thread, the festival will have a strong dramatic component featuring both the writing element of the art form and performances. Both of these elements will be explored in the session with the celebrated dramatist, David Harrower which will include a rehearsed reading from his 2007 play “Blackbird” (Faber&Faber) as well as a talk by the writer and a Q&A session. Blackbird won the Critic’s Award for Theatre in Scotland and the Olivier Award for Best Play in 2007.
There will also be drama from closer to home in the form of a series of special performances of ten minute plays written in Shetland over the last year and performed by members of Serpentine Drama, a community group, based in Shetland with the aim of encouraging the writing and performance of new drama in Shetland.
There will also be drama for children, provided by The Story Tellers who will give two performances of “Tales from The Gypsy Caravan.” ‘The Storytellers’ was formed by Pendle Productions in 1985 as a Touring Theatre Company to take adaptations of classics to all types of venues. The Company is directed by the founder, Timothy Lince whose international work includes a 17 year association with the BBC, including working as a commissioned script and musical Writer/Director, Artistic Director of Manitou Arts Centre in Toronto and numerous major musical and theatrical tours. “Tales from the Gypsy Caravan” combines the rich tapestry of traditional storytelling with animated performance, music and song to create a production that is sure to both entertain and enthral. The first Wordplay, in 2003, was an event primarily for children, and since then the festival has welcomed a long list of great writers for younger readers. This year will see a series of events, run by children’s writers, including Shetland Arts Writer in Residence, Chrissie Gittins. Chrissie’s poems have won prizes, been broadcast on BBCR4 and animated for Cbeebies television. Her adult poetry collections are Armature and I’ll Dress One Night As You. Her children’s poetry collections were shortlisted for the CLPE Award; all three are Choices for the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf. She writes radio drama and her short story collection is Family Connections. As well as a session for youngsters, Chrissie will take part in a poetry reading for adults.
Needing little introduction to Shetland’s young readers is Valerie Watt, who has recently published her third dialect book for bairns. ‘Bobby an da Burland Pearls’ inspired the musical of the same name. With ‘Peerie Mootie’ and ‘Da Peesterleeties’ she has toured Shetland schools and nurseries, reading her stories, playing her fiddle and getting bairns involved in roleplay. It is also rumoured she lends a hand to Tushie Truncherfaece, the world’s only trow columnist, who writes in Shetland Life. Valerie has made several highly successful appearances at Wordplay in the past, including a shadow puppet performance of Da Peesterleeties. This time round she will run a creative writing workshop based on “Bobby an da Burland Pearls” which will feature the puppets from the musical and her own excellent fiddle playing.
With her book “Tarantula Tide”, a prize winning thriller set in Shetland, Sharon Tregenza, will be making her first visit to the festival where she will present a solo event for children. This session will be based on the novel and will be all about the animals that feature in the novel and the animal smuggling trade. Sharon will also take part in a joint event with Janis Mackay, herself a prize winning author of “Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest.” Janis will also run a solo session for children, based on the oceanic adventure story that will involve the children imaginatively in creating their own sea monsters.
Poetry lovers will have the opportunity of almost total immersion in their favourite artform, including a reading by Christopher Reid, whose book, “A Scattering” won the Costa Best book Prize in 2009, making Mr Reid one of only three poets to have ever been honoured in this way – the other two being Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. The poet will read from his work and answer questions.
Saturday will feature two poetry double headers: first up will be Christie Williamson from Yell, now living in Glasgow, who recently won the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award for his pamphlet “Arc O Mons,” a translation from the original Spanish into Shetland Dialect, published by Hansel Cooperative Press. Christie recently featured at Stanza International Poetry festival in St Andrews and will join Christine De Luca who will be launching her new collection “North End of Eden” (Luath). She has now had published five volumes of poetry and enjoys a high standing in the national literature scene and is a prize-winning poet, writing in both English and Shetland dialect.
This reading will be followed by a special guest appearance from Orkney, by Nalini Paul, the current George Mackay Brown Fellow and Morag MacInnes. Nalini Paul has done a great amount of work in collaboration with visual artists and her most recent work is “Skirlags” (Red Squirrel Press). Morag MacInnes regularly contributes to the New Shetlander and has recently had published “Alias Isobel” a cycle of narrative poetry about fellow Orcadian, Isabel Gunn who gained employment in the Hudson Bay Company, disguised as a man.
From further afield, Vancouver, in fact and no less welcome is Miranda Pearson whose poetry has been described as “deeply startling and accomplished.” She has now had published three collections of poetry: “Prime” (Porcepic 2001), “Aviary “(Oolichan 2006), which won the Alfred G Bailey prize and “Harbour” (Oolichan 2009). Reading with Miranda will be Chrissie Gittins also a prize-winning poet. Her adult poetry collections are “Armature” (Arc, 2003) and “I'll Dress One Night As You” (Salt, 2009) described by Moniza Alvi as “…Lively, accessible and gently surprising…”
The novel will also feature prominently at Wordplay, in the very new forms of “Da Happy Laand” (Luath 2010) by Shetland’s very own Robert Alan Jamieson, his fourth described by Kevin MacNeil as being “… big in scope, rich in ideas, uncompromising in execution.” The other brand new book to be featured this year will be “And the Land Lay Still” by James Robertson (Penguin 2010) which was described by Irvine Welsh, in his review for The Guardian, as “nothing less than a landmark for the novel in Scotland”.
Making her first appearance at Wordplay is Mitzi Szereto, author, blogger (Errant Ramblings) and creator/presenter of Mitzi TV. She has published several books, including In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales. Mitzi pioneered the erotic writing workshop in the UK and Europe, and has lectured in creative writing at several British universities. She edited the first erotica anthology to feature a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. As well as giving a reading and Q&A session, Mitzi Szereto will run a two-hour workshop on how to write erotic fiction.
Another first for the festival is the arrival of Book Camp, a three hour master class on how to get published in the world of fiction for children which will be run by Julia Churchill a literary agent with the Greenhouse Agency and Leah Thaxton, senior publisher with Egmont, the largest Children’s Book publisher in the UK. The session will consist of an hour, from the agent’s perspective, an hour from the publisher’s perspective and a further hour’s opportunity to discuss questions from the floor. As with all the Wordplay workshops, advanced booking is necessary for this session.
Shetland Arts Literature Development Officer Donald Anderson said, “ It is immensely exciting to see such a wide variety of writers and events. I think that our volunteer curators, Genny White and Christine Hughson, have made a great contribution in helping us to bring together such a fine programme.”
Shetland Arts would like to thank the event’s main funders, Creative Scotland and Sponsors BP/Sullom Voe Terminal; Brudolff Hotels and Shetland Family Centre Services for their continued support of Wordplay.
Tickets for all events are available from Shetland Box Office, Islesburgh Community Centre, Lerwick – 01595 745 555.
Advanced booking is recommended for all events.