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Aberdeen academic explores Jessie Kesson’s literary legacy

Award-winning writer and academic Dr Isobel Murray will deliver the distinguished Linklater Lecture at the University of Aberdeen on Friday, May 18, as part of its second WORD 2001 writers festival.

Dr Murray, a Reader in the Department of English at Aberdeen University, won this year’s National Library of Scotland Saltire Research Book of the Year award for her biography, Jessie Kesson: Writing Her Life.

Jessie Kesson spent her early childhood in Elgin slums before moving to Proctor’s Orphanage at Skene, an experience about which she wrote powerfully in her first novel, The White Bird Passes.

The five-day WORD 2001 event follows on the success of the University’s first festival, which was held in May 1999, and promises to be Scotland’s largest literary event outside the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Featuring more than 30 writers and artists from throughout Scotland and Ireland, including William McIlvanney, Alasdair Gray, Bernard MacLaverty, Liz Lochhead and Tom Leonard, the programme will have something for everyone, from readings in bookshops and libraries, film screenings and readings at Aberdeen’s new art house cinema, The Belmont, and children’s theatre.

All day:      Travelling Gallery      Ellon Academy
10am:        Workshop at the Travelling Gallery with Iain F Mac a’Phearsain     Ellon Academy
Noon:        Word and Image poetry reading with George Bruce  Aberdeen Art Gallery
4pm           Gala Event with Paul Muldoon, Alasdair Gray and William McIlvanney      King’s College
5.30pm      Awards Ceremony for Word competition winners with reading by SAC Children’s Book Award Winners
                  King’s College
7pm:          Linklater Lecture    Jessie Kesson: A Country Dweller’s Year
                  by Isobel Murray, winner of this year’s National Library of Scotland Saltire Research Book of the Year. A drinks
                  reception will take place immediately after the lecture for all those with a ticket     King’s College
8.30pm:     Festival Dinner for invited guests only
10.40pm:   Trainspotting based on the novel by Irvine Welsh  The Belmont

The first Word festival, held in Aberdeen in 1999, was a highly successful event with hundreds of local people attending the many readings, music and word events, lectures and workshops. The Scotsman described it as ‘the largest, and most impressive literary event ever held in Aberdeen’.

This year, the festival has the very great honour of welcoming as its patrons the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, and Edwin Morgan, regarded by many as Scotland’s greatest living poet. Seamus Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past’ officially launched WORD 2001 in February when he visited the University. Edwin Morgan was the joint winner of the 1998 Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year with his latest book of poems, Virtual and Other Realities. In 1999, his performance in Planet Wave with Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra as part of the Word ’99 Festival completely packed out the Lemon Tree.

This year’s festival is 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.

A full programme for WORD 2001 can be obtained by subscribing to the mailing list online at, or by telephone (01224) 272078.


Issued by Public Relations Office, External Relations, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen, telephone: 01224 272014, fax: 01224 272086.

University Press Office on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email