This year Shetland Arts’ festival of words will be built around 365: Stories and Music – a major new collection of Scottish contemporary literature and music in one interactive sound-art installation, launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year and touring to Mareel in November.

365: Stories and Music brings together the genius of Scottish poet and novelist James Robertson and Scottish fiddler and composer Aidan O’Rourke of Lau. James wrote a short story every day for a year, each story comprising 365 words, this was published in 2014 by Penguin as 365: Stories. Aidan then matched the challenge. He wrote a new tune every day for a year in response to James's stories.

I loved reading those stories: a daily dose of poetry and wisdom. And I loved the writing. The language is emotional, concise, apposite. Somehow the words and the pacing of the stories felt musical. I was intrigued by the discipline of setting such a quantifiable daily creative ritual. Would the same be possible in music…? (Aidan O’Rourke)

Aidan’s response is sparse and emotive contemporary folk music — the fiddle is paired with bold and exploratory harmonies from ECM recording artist Kit Downes on harmonium and piano.

Opening with a concert on Friday 1 November, the interactive installation will be in Mareel for a fortnight, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the stories and music. The concert features Aidan and Kit performing music from the 365 Project alongside readings from James.

Saturday 2 November sees a writing workshop by James, a composition and harmony workshop by Aidan and Kit Downes and a fiddle masterclass with Aidan. The installation will be rounded off with our usual Wordplay celebration event with local authors on Friday 15 November.

We are also excited to announce Wordplay 2020 will be curated by acclaimed local author Malachy Tallack who we are looking forward to working with in this, our build up towards 2022 – The Year of Scottish Stories!

Concert tickets will be available from Friday 10 May in person from Mareel, by phone on 01595 745500, or online at

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