For the second year running the University of Aberdeen is set to host the exciting student and youth-led WayWORD Festival.

Launched in 2020 to celebrate the University of Aberdeen’s 525th anniversary, WayWORD returns from September 19 - 26 with a vibrant blend of online and in-person literary arts events.

With performers coming from more than 15 countries encompassing 12 different languages and dialects, the festival showcases voices from Aberdeen to Philadelphia to Sudan.

Highlighting ‘unconventional forms of expression’ WayWORD brings under-explored arts and artists to the fore. This year’s line-up includes workshops in animation, Bothy ballads, and creative writing to improve mental health, with headliners including Val McDermid, Karine Polwart, Irvine Welsh, Alex Wheatle, A.L. Kennedy and Kirstin Innes. With more than 40 events covering topics such as nature, beauty, witches, poetry, music, comedy, Gaelic playwriting, dance, painting, and sound art, there is something for everyone at WayWORD’s 2021 festival.

Featuring workshops, author events, panel discussions and performance nights, the intergenerational festival will be free and live online, with BSL interpretation.

Four events will be held in-person this year, in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines. They are:

Listen… Outdoor Sound Art Workshop with Pete Stollery in the Cruikshank Gardens, North-east Voices at the Blue Lamp: Shane Strachan, Noon El-Saleh, Sheena Blackhall, Affa Fine, SC&T Youth and Iona Fyfe, Animation Workshop with Finn Nichol in the MacRobert Building, and Val McDermid will take to the stage in the Arts Lecture Theatre.

Audiences can enjoy a panel discussion on the roles of class, place, and language from Scottish author Graeme Armstrong, writer of acclaimed debut novel The Young Team, and Ely Percy, whose new episodic novel Duck Feet follows a young group of friends as they navigate coming of age in mid-noughties Scotland.

Other events include QI’s Dan Schreiber, host of the UK’s most listened-to podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish, discussing writing and producing comedy and answering your questions. There will also be an online screening of Nicky Larkin’s behind-the-scenes documentary Abomination: a DUP Opera, followed by a Q&A.

University of Aberdeen graduate and New York Times bestselling author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé will discuss her ground-breaking young adult novel Ace of Spades.

The legacy of Aberdeen-born author of The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd, will be marked with nature-writing events featuring poetry, prose and song.

Other events will explore North-east Voices, working in translation, and the relationship between neurodiversity, disability and creativity. Young French film-maker Anais Fourrier has made four new Storytelling & Place films which will be premiered at the festival, featuring local storytellers such as Sheena Blackhall and some ‘weel kent’ locations from Dunnottar to Tulloch.

The festival is organised by students and young people from across the city with guidance and mentoring from University staff. Mabel Chambers, a postgraduate Anthropology student, has been part of the student committee organising this year’s programme. She said: “It has been really heartening to see such exciting events and festivals going ahead after so much disappointment last year. Despite the challenges of organising such a large festival remotely, it has been amazing to have so many creative and interesting people pull together to perform and organise this year’s program.”

Festival director, Dr Helen Lynch from the University’s School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, added: “Last year’s festival was such a success that coming up with something to build on that was a real challenge. The young people have done an amazing job of keeping it fresh and imaginative while putting in a huge amount of practical work to bring it all together. The festival has more than twice the number of events we had in 2020 and yet the programme is coherent as well as varied. There really is something for everybody in 2021.”

WayWORD is a student and youth-led arts festival for people of all ages organised by the WORD Centre for Creative Writing, University of Aberdeen. Workshops, author events, panel discussions and performance nights are all FREE and live online, with BSL interpretation.

Although all events are free, registration is required. For more information and to register for events, visit

More like this…

View all