• Features

WayWORD Festival 2021: Unconventional Forms of Expression

By Sara Young


After a hugely successful first year, Aberdeen’s own student run arts festival is back! Last year the student organisers of the WayWORD Festival organised and hosted 22 events, and this year we are back, with a total of 47 events- both online and in person.


Launched in 2020 to celebrate the University of Aberdeen’s 525th anniversary, the literary crossarts festival is funded by the University of Aberdeen and Creative Scotland and run by students and young people from across Aberdeen with mentoring from staff at the University. WayWORD prides itself on celebrating unconventional forms of expression and on having a focus on diversity and inclusion throughout its vast and varied programme. This year the festival spans from the 19th of September to the 26th. In addition to having a stellar line up, all the events are free to attend, captioned, and interpreted by our fantastic BSL interpreter Lesley Crerar.


The WayWORD festival aims to highlight ‘unconventional forms of expression’, showcasing pioneering artists and art forms, and focusing on accessibility for all. Our performers and committee members come from over 15 different countries and speak 12 different languages and dialects, making our organisers and our guests just as diverse this year’s incredible programme.


Events include workshops, walking tours, panel discussions, author events, film screenings and performance nights- this is not a festival to be missed! Among our headliners are: Val McDermid, Karine Polwart, Irvine Welsh, Alex Wheatle, A.L. Kennedy and Kirstin Innes. This year we are pleased to be in a position to hold in-person events, as well as those which we are hosting online. In accordance with Scottish Government guidelines we are holding an Outdoor Sound Art Workshop with Pete Stollery, an event showcasing performers from this neck of the woods: NorthEast Voices at the Blue Lamp, an Animation Workshop with Finn Nichol, and Scottish crime writer Val McDermid is centerstage at the Arts Lecture Theatre.


As a student on the WayWORD committee I have had the opportunity to select performers for the festival, which has been massively exciting. Some of our guests this year are people I have followed for years so it really is incredible to be working alongside them. I have learnt how to chair a literary panel event, and I have have also had the immense privilege of working with a talented and creative group of young people to organise events about art. As an aspiring writer I am hugely passionate about modern Scottish literature and therefore I wanted to include an event in the festival that focused on that. I have worked for a number of months now to create a panel event with young Scottish writers Ely Percy and Graeme Armstrong to talk about the roles of class, place, and language in writing in Scotland. The preparations have been intense at times, but I could not be more excited to speak to both Graeme and Ely, and for the festival as a whole. I highly recommend getting involved with the committee, as well as the festival itself, the experiences, opportunities and contacts are second to none.


Our lineup was selected entirely by students and young people and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to get so involved in the running and organisation of the festival. As a final year student of English Literature with Creative Writing I knew that the WayWORD festival was absolutely something I wanted to get involved in, but the festival isn’t just for those with an interest in literature and writing. Our events range from a sea shanty workshop, to a witches walking tour, and there is even an event exclusively featuring medical students.


There absolutely is something for everyone at the WayWORD Festival this year, from the dead women poet’s seance to the DUP opera, you won’t be struggling for an event to get stuck into.


Further information and ticket booking can be found by visiting our website: www.waywordfestival.com. Please keep in touch and follow WayWORD on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook socials to be kept up to date. We hope to see you at one of our events next week!