Programme launched for top Scottish literary festival

Aberdeen school children will demonstrate the ‘power of Word’ today as one of Scotland’s most popular literary festivals announces its 2011 line-up.

Word – the University of Aberdeen writers festival – will once again welcome some of the biggest names in the literary world to the Granite City with newscaster John Suchet, and novelists Ian Banks and Margaret Atwood topping the bill.

Suchet will talk about his book My Bonnie: How dementia stole the love of my life, an honest and heartfelt account of his wife’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s four years ago and the years he has spent caring for her.

The festival, which will run from May 13 to 15, will also welcome Neil Forsyth, best known for creating the character of Bob Servant in Delete This at Your Peril, Helen Warner, Head of Daytime TV for Channel 4 and author of RSVP, and Britain’s most famous skipper, and star of BBC TV series Trawlermen Jimmy Buchan.

Stephen Robertson- one third of the Doric comedy act Scotland The What? Will share the story of their extraordinary success, while Sir John Lister-Kaye, one of Britain’s best-known naturalists and environmentalists will talk about his work at the world-famous Aigas Field Centre in the Highlands, and Dennis Canavan will discuss his 33 year career at Westminster and Holyrood.

The 11th festival will see Word enter its second decade and in that time it has gone from strength to strength –attracting more than 11,000 visits last year.

Since its inception it has grown in scale and diversity and now incorporates a successful science strand which will see Dr Chris Smith, author of The Naked Scientist, lay bare the science behind some of the puzzles of everyday life, and recently published authors including Bruce Hood, Michael Brooks and David Shukman talk about their work.

For 2011, Word is branching out further with events to appeal to anyone with an interest in history and Tom Weber – the author behind Hitler’s First War, which seeks to ‘set the record straight’ on the Dictator’s First World War service record, will be on hand to discuss his research and Isobel Murray, will unveil her latest book Scottish Writers of the Second World War.

Word will also feature events in all of Scotland’s languages, with Gaelic and Doric prominent, and there will be special celebrations of the work of two of Scotland’s finest poets whose centenaries were marked recently, Sorley MacLean and Norman MacCaig.

Continued sponsorship by Talisman Energy (UK) Limited and Wood Group has enabled Word to keep ticket prices low and to reach out to new venues including Aberdeen’s Café Drummond, which will host a David Bowie Night with biographer Paul Trynka, and the Grassic Gibbon Centre in Arbuthnott, south of Stonehaven.

The Marathon Oil Schools’ and Children’s Festivals will again run alongside the main festival with a fun packed programme sure to fire young imaginations.

To launch the festival programme and to celebrate Word’s continuing strength, school children from St Peter’s Primary School in Aberdeen will combine science and literature in a tug-o-war with a difference – attempting to pull apart two books held together with only the power of friction.

Professor Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen said: “Word is now into its second decade and has long established itself as one of Scotland’s most exciting, dynamic and diverse literary gatherings. The programme for this year’s festival once again offers a broad spectrum of events for all ages, as well as attracting some of the major figures in contemporary writing.

“The Festival is also an important part of the University’s commitment to the wider community. We’re very proud to be the only UK university that organises a literary festival and one that has become such a highlight of the cultural calendar of the North.

Alan Spence, Word creative director, added:  “The Word Festival moves into its second decade with another sensational programme. There’s the usual heady mix of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, readings, performances, discussions, exhibitions, music, a club night and events that just defy categorisation and the science strand gets stronger each year.

“Thanks to our many public and private funding partners - especially our joint title sponsors Talisman Energy and the Wood Group - we’ve been able to keep our ticket prices low, with increases kept to a minimum and many events still, amazingly, free.  It promises to be an absolutely fantastic weekend.”

Talisman Energy (UK) Limited Senior Vice President Geoff Holmes said: “We are delighted to once again support the Word festival.  The programme is diverse with something for everyone and having a strong Canadian link through Margaret Atwood’s participation is the icing on the cake for us as a company with its headquarters in Calgary.”

Allister Langlands, Chief Executive of Wood Group added: “Wood Group is delighted to again be joining Talisman in supporting the Word Festival and look forward to this year’s exciting programme.”

The full word programme can be found at tickets for all events are available from Aberdeen Box Office on 01224 641122 from Monday March 28.