Mapping the North-East

Mapping the North-East

Mapping the North-East is the project title for various creative and research activities taking place within the WORD Centre for Creative Writing.


Aiming to create a cultural map of the North-East, the project explores themes of cultural geography, and the relationship between place and identity, through cross-arts, interdisciplinary activities.

The project seeks to engage writers, artists and public with the North-East territory and its communities, languages, music, history and traditions

You can read about some of our recent and current projects, as well as our Postgraduate opportunities, below.

  • Judith Weir, blue hills beyond blue hills (after poetry by Alan Spence). Classical composition for choir and string quartet, 2019.
  • Sheena Blackhall, ‘The Owersetts’: series of Doric translations of classics and children’s literature, including Fey Case o Dr Jekyll & mR h, O Mice & Men, and Jean Eyre (all Evertype, 2018). 
  • The Aberdeen Collection, ed. by Helen Lynch and Carley Williams. Aberdeen University Press, 2017.
  • A Puckle o Sangs: A Collection of Favourite Scottish Songs Chosen by North East Singers, ed. by Grace Banks. Aberdeen University Press, 2015.
  • Passages, ed. by Shane Strachan, Edition Vulpes, 2015. An anthology of new writing in Scots, Doric, English, German and Bavarian arising out of the Write Aberdeen-Write Regenbsburg project, in partnership with and funded by Aberdeen City Council. 
  • David Wheatley, The Reed Bunting Unseen: A Camouflage Garden for Ian Hamilton Finlay. Wildhoney Press, 2013. Poetry collection.
  • Stewart Ennis (Joint Aberdeen-Curtin PhD graduate), Blessed Assurance. Vagabond Voices, 2019. Novel.
  • Pause: New Writing About Time and Change, ed. by Wayne Price, 2019. An anthology of creative writing by Aberdeen and Curtin postgraduate students and recent alumni.
  • Special edition of literary journal Axon (Issue 3, 2018), co-edited by Wayne Price and Rachel Robertson. Featuring contributions by members and directors of the Centre including Wayne Price, David Wheatley, Helen Lynch, Alexandra Lewis, and Shane Alcobia Murphy. Available to read. 
  • Edge to Edge: Aberdeen Curtin Student Writing Anthology, ed. by Wayne Price and Rachel Robertson. Perth, Western Australia, 2017.
  • In partnership with the Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies, the Centre has played a key editorial role in the production of Causeway/Cabshair, a literary magazine publishing new writing in all the languages of Ireland and Scotland. 
History, Landscape

Storytelling the North-East means discovering, narrating, celebrating the lives and stories of its people.

The Bill Gibb Line

Shane Strachan wearing Bill Gibb inspired designsOne of the most recent projects in this direction is Honorary Fellow Shane Strachan's 'The Bill Gibb Line,' focusing on the career and legacy of North-East fashion designer Bill Gibb

  • You can listen to Bill Gibb's story in 'The Bill Gibb Line' podcast, with music by Ross Whyte
  • 'The Bill Gibb Line' has also taken the form of a spoken-word film and exhibition at the Aberdeen Art Gallery (February May 2020), originally commissioned for the Look Again Festival 2019.

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Between 2016 and 2019, the WORD Centre has commemorated the work and life of Aberdeen-born World War I poet Charles Hamilton Sorley, through a series of events and collaborations, including:

  • Installing a commemorative plaque at Powis Community Centre, once Powis House (in collaboration with Neil McLennan, November 2018)
  • Centre Fellow Martin Malone's commissioned poem 'Sorley's Bullet', highlighting Powis Community Centre as Sorley's childhood home (Causeway/Cabhsair, 7:1, 2016)
  • 'Sorley's Bullet' was set to music and sung by St Machar Academy Choir (December 2019), and Aberdeen University Choir (2016)
  • Dedicated creative writing workshops with pupils from St Machar Academy lead by Martin Malone.

Enacting the Past: Stories from the Bennachie Colony to the Tatras

A multidisciplinary research project, 'Enacting the Past' discovers the archeology of the Bennachie Colony, a group of crofters who lived, building homes and farming the land, south-east of Mither Tap, in the 19th century. 

  • The Day the World Changed’ was a processional drama performance bringing together performers, musicians, writers and dancers, including the Polish Scottish Song and Story group, with members of the Bailies of Bennachie (September 2017).
  • ‘Enacting the Past’ also found artistic expressions through storytelling events and the ‘Elsewhere to Be’ creative writing workshops in English, Scots and Polish, (2017-2018). 

Discovering the oral and archival history of the Colony has involved several schools within the University (Archaeology, Sociology, Anthropology, Education), as well as the WORD Centre and the Elphinstone institute, in partnership with the Scottish Culture and Traditions, made possible thanks to AHRC funding. 


Mapping the North-East also seeks to explore the connection between communities and place through music, whether it is centuries old folk or contemporary classical compositions.

Wirds an Soonds

North-East Scots meets contemporary cello, as WORD Centre writers team up with cellists and composers to create collaborative composition pieces to premiere in 2020.

  • Including writing by Sheena Blackhall, Shane Strachan, Jan Simpson and Jo Gilbert, 'Wirds an Soonds' began as part of the cross-arts festival strand of WORDS &  ... in partnership with the SOUND Festival.
  • The collaborative project developed further, through a day-long workshop led by French Cellist Noemi Boutin, Composer Laura Bowler and four WORD Centre Doric writers (October 2019).

The Aberdeen Collection, A Puckle o Sangs

Folk musicians at the Blue LampWaltzes and airs, jigs and reels, fiddle and clarsach; two publications document Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire through its music.

  • 'The Aberdeen Collection' gathers tunes from over 90 contemporary folk musicians and composers from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, including four previously unpublished tunes written by popular Aberdeenshire musician James Scott Skinner in the 1890s, deciphered from handwritten manuscripts.
  • The collaborative project took part in the Silver City Stramash in 2017 (three day traditional music festival), and is the result of a partnership with Scottish Culture & Traditions Associations, made possible thanks to ACC Silver City Stories Funding.
  • 'A Puckle o Sangs' is a rich collection of popular songs gathered by singers and musicians of the North-East, also published by Aberdeen University Press in collaboration with Scottish Culture & Traditions Association. 

Alan Spence: Judith Weir's blue hills beyond blue hills

Classical composer Judith Weir set to music 55 short poems by the Centre's Professor Emeritus Alan Spence.

  • The work, 'blue hills beyond blue hills,' was performed in Milton Court, London, by the BBC Singers and the Ligeti String Quartet, conducted by Sofi Jeannin (October 2019) and broadcast again on Radio 3 in November. 

Alan Spence's poetry behind the music comes from the collections:

Language Connections

This strand of the project includes activities reflecting the variety of languages in North-East Scotland, from Doric and Gaelic, to Polish.

Doric and Gaelic are consistently featured as part of the WORD strand in the May Festival, in the form of readings, performances and events, such as the Doric Drop-in events, on campus and in the community (Traveller Writers, Doric Rap and Step Dance, 2019).

Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when Catholic Scots emigrated to Northern Poland, the connection between Aberdeen and Poland is explored in various, diverse collaborations. 

What Country Friends Is This?

Twelfth Night meets testimonies from the Polish community’s experiences of migration to Aberdeen in a performance and community engagement project by Open Road Theatre, developed through a series of workshop-performances and collaborative sessions, with support from the University of Aberdeen (2017-2019). A piece that keeps developing and changing.   

Polish-Scottish Festivals of Music, Literature & Drama

Polish singers at May FestivalFeaturing author interviews and readings, as well as a panel on 'Revaluations of Mickiewicz and Contemporary Writing in Poland,' with Dr Elwira Grossmann (University of Glasgow).

Co-organised with Mateusz Lagoda, Polish Association, Aberdeen, with Heritage Lottery and Polish Consulate Funding (Jan 2019, Jan 2018).

Celebratin Sheena

Writing, singing and storytelling extensively in Doric, North-East Makar Sheena Blackhall is one of Scotland’s most important contemporary literary figures.

A long-time WORD Centre Fellow, her work took centre stage in Celebratin Sheena, a series of events, concerts and broadcasts of prose and poetry both old and new, organised by the Elphinstone Institute with support from Aberdeenshire Council (April-December 2019). 


At home, and a long way from home: a creative learning, community engagement project, Home-Hame-Дом-Dom explores the meaning of 'home' for the different communities of Aberdeenshire, in the shape of a variety of activities, including writing workshops, community cafés, theatre workshops, storytelling, music, and craft. 

  • Coordinatded by the Elphinstone Institute, the WEA, and Modo, the project takes place in Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff, Macduff and Turriff (2019-2020). You can find them on Facebook.
Aberdeen to Australia

Creative Writing in Curtin, Australia

As part of the Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance, the WORD Centre has developed a Creative Writing partnership with The University of Curtin, Western Australia. The Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance in Creative Writing comprises 

  • masterclasses
  • post-graduate workshops
  • symposia
  • jointly supervised international PhD projects.

The ideas at the centre of the partnership lie closely within the research interests of Mapping the North-East: place, landscape, language and identity in writing, a city’s relation to its surrounding areas, and the reaction and relation of local and indigenous populations to new technological and industrial developments.

Some of the most recent activities of the Aberdeen-Curtin Creative Writing partnership include: 

  • Book Launch of ‘Blessed Assurance’ by Joint Aberdeen-Curtin PhD graduate Stewart Ennis (October 2019).
  • Pause,’ an anthology of creative writing by Aberdeen and Curtin postgraduate students and recent alumni, co-edited by Centre Director Wayne Price (January 2019). 
  • A special edition of literary journal Axon, co-edited by Wayne Price and Rachel Robertson (Curtin), featured contributions by members and directors of the Centre including Wayne Price, David Wheatley, Helen Lynch, Alexandra Lewis, and Shane Alcobia Murphy (October 2018). Available to read here.
  • Symposium: ‘Uncanny Powers: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Art and Politics of Spectral Space’ (June 2017).
  • 'Edge to Edge': Aberdeen Curtin student writing anthology, ed. Wayne Price and Rachel Robertson (Curtin), (Perth, Western Australia) 2017