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Irish poet Seamus Heaney launches
Aberdeen writers festival
Date: February 7, 2001
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Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney today (Wednesday, February 7) visited the University of Aberdeen to launch WORD 2001, Scotland’s largest literary event outside the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Dr Heaney is an honorary graduate of the University and a patron of the four-day event, which will feature leading Scottish and Irish writers including Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, Pat McCabe, Bernard MacLaverty, William McIlvanney, Ciaran Carson and Aberdeen University writer-in-residence Alan Spence.
Following the launch of Word 2001, Dr Heaney, winner of the 1999 Whitbread Book of the Year award for his translation of Beowulf, gave a public poetry reading in the Arts Lecture Theatre. The reading, which was supported by Faber & Faber and Blackwells, included a selection of poems from his eagerly anticipated Electric Light collection, due to be published in April.
Principal C Duncan Rice said he was delighted that Dr Heaney was able to visit Aberdeen for two high-profile University events.
“I think universities have an important cultural role. It not only makes our own intellectual community more exciting, it enriches the wider community,” he said.
“We look forward to inviting some of Ireland and Scotland’s most talented writers to our university in May.”
Starting on Wednesday May 16, WORD 2001 will feature children’s events at selected schools and city venues; readings in bookshops and libraries; lectures and debates at the University; film screenings and readings at Aberdeen’s new art house cinema, The Belmont. There will also be children’s theatre, as well as word and music events at the Lemon Tree, and word and art events at Aberdeen Art Gallery.
Alan Spence, Artistic Director of the Festival and writer-in-residence at the University of Aberdeen, said WORD 2001 will build on the success of the first WORD festival in 1999, bringing together the absolute best of established Irish and Scottish writers.
“The first WORD festival was a wonderful success, and WORD 2001 will be even better,” he said.
“This year, a strong Irish contingent will join the best of Scottish writers for a really exciting programme of events, which we hope will be enjoyed by people of all generations and from all walks of life. There promises to be something for everyone.”
An online creative writing competition has already been launched for all Scottish and Irish secondary school pupils. Sponsored by BT Scotland, entrants can pick any theme they want for a short story or poem. There are three age groups – first and second year, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth. The three poetry and three short story winners will each receive a mobile phone and a hand-held television. Six runners-up will also be given mobile phones.
The festival is also supported by the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery, Aberdeen City Council, First Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire Council, The Belmont and The Lemon Tree, as well as local Aberdeen bookshops.
WORD 2001 follows the success of the original WORD festival, which took place in May 1999. It was referred to by The Scotsman as ‘bulging with talent, established and cutting edge, for adults and children’. The Press and Journal described it as ‘the biggest literary event in Scotland outside the Edinburgh Book Festival’.
A full programme for WORD 2001 will be available by April. Anyone interested in obtaining a programme can subscribe to the mailing list online at www.abdn.ac.uk/word or by telephone (01224) 272078.
Further information: Tina Kenworthy, University Press Office on (01224)
Seamus Heaney was born in 1939, in County Derry, Northern Ireland. He grew up in the country, on a farm, in touch with a traditional rural way of life, which he wrote about in his first book Death of a Naturalist (1966).
He attended the local school and, in 1951, went as a boarder to St Columb's College, about 40 miles away in Derry. In 1956, he went on a scholarship to Queen's University, Belfast, and graduated with a first class degree in English Language and Literature in 1961. After a year as a post-graduate at a college of education, and a year teaching in a secondary modern school in Ballymurphy, he was appointed to the staff of St Joseph's College of Education. In 1966, Seamus Heaney took up a lecturing post in the English Department of Queen's University, and remained there until 1972, spending the academic year 1970-71 as a visiting Professor at the University of California in Berkeley.
In 1972, he stopped teaching in order to devote more time to his writing,
and moved with his family to Glanmore in County Wicklow, and later to Dublin.
For three years, he made his living as a freelance writer, presenting a
radio programme for RTE and doing occasional work for the BBC and for various
journals. During this period he produced the poems collected in North
(1975). In September 1975, he resumed his teaching, this time at Carysfort
College in Dublin.
Seamus Heaney began to write in 1962, publishing first in Irish magazines. During the early and mid-sixties, he was connected with a group of writers in Belfast which included Derek Mahon, Michael Longley and James Simmons. Philip Hobsbaum ran a poetry group during these years and the poets met regularly at his house until he moved to Glasgow in 1966. After this, the meetings continued under Seamus Heaney's chairmanship until 1970, and in this later period were attended by younger poets such as Paul Muldoon, Frank Ormsby and Michael Foley. In 1968, with Michael Longley and the singer David Hammond, Seamus Heaney took part in a two-week reading tour of Northern Ireland called Room to Rhyme, the first in a series of such literary enterprises sponsored by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. He was appointed to the Arts Council in the Republic of Ireland in 1974 and served until 1979. He is a member of Aosdana.
Seamus Heaney has won numerous awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award (1968), the Denis Devlin Award (1973), the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize (1975), the American Irish Foundation Literary Award (1973) and the W H Smith Annual Award (1976). In 1987, he was awarded the Whitbread Poetry Award for The Haw Lantern. In October 1995, Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
From 1989 to 1994, Seamus Heaney was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.
Faber and Faber published a collection of his Oxford Poetry Lectures entitled
The Redress of Poetry in September 1995. November 1995 saw the publication
of his co-translation of Laments, a moving Polish Classic of the sixteenth
century by Jan Kochanowski. The Spirit Level was first new collection
of poems for five years, was published in May 1996. In 1997, The School
Bag was published, a companion volume to The Rattle Bag,
co--edited with Ted Hughes. In 1999, he published his translation of Beowulf, which went on to win the Whitbread Book of the Year prize. Faber will publish his new collection, Electric Light, in April 2001.
In 1965, he married Marie Devlin and they have three children. He is
currently the Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet-in-Residence at Harvard University,
where he goes to teach for 6 weeks every two years.
University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.