Aberdeen gets the Word

5th May 2006 at 01:00
In the beginning was an idea for a literary festival, and the idea was Word, Aberdeen University's writers' festival. The first Word Festival was held in 1999. Seven years and five festivals later, it has become an annual fixture. This year's line-up is the most international yet, with prominent writers from New Zealand, China and Canada.

The main festival kicks off next Friday on campus and at arts venues across the city. But prior to the talks, readings, film screenings, art exhibitions and Gaelic literary events, there is a schools programme of workshops (May 9-11) for nurseries and primary children.

Professor C. Duncan Rice, vice-chancellor of the university, says this year's festival will be "the biggest literary event the North East has ever seen".

The festival producer, Elly Rothnie, explains: "Through demand, we had to double the size of the schools programme and it booked out in one day. Our children's programme is also booked out.

"It is a great opportunity for us to bring authors to Aberdeen for schools events. It is important for the university to be welcoming school students in, to break down the barriers between school and university."

The schools programme features events for pupils from P1 to S2. Debi Gliori will treat P1-P3 classes to a reading of her most treasured picture books, including No Matter What and Where Did That Baby Come From?. Pupils in P3 to P5 will be told magical tales by Cathy Low, while Joan Lingard will be reading from Tilly and the Wild Goats and Hands Off Our School, for pupils in P4 and P5.

Upper primary classes are spoilt for choice, with the adventures of the Strega-Borgia clan in Debi Gliori's hugely popular Pure Dead Magic series and Joan Lingard reading from her three novels, The Sign of the Black Dagger, Natasha's Will and Tell the Moon To Come Out.

Again for P6 and P7 pupils, Katie Grant will read from her new novel, Green Jasper. Set in 1193, the book begins with brothers Will and Gavin returning from the Crusades to find that home has changed more than they had expected.

Meanwhile, Braw, the national network for Scottish children's literature, will be launching the shortlist of children's books for this year's Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books, sponsored by TES Scotland (see News page 5). Best-selling author Catherine MacPhail and children's drama expert Pam Wardell will discuss the three books shortlisted in the 8 to 12 years category.

The Children's Word Festival, which coincides with the main festival over the weekend, features big names such as Mairi Hedderwick, creator of the hugely popular Katie Morag series, and storyteller and illustrator Moira Munro, author of Hamish the Bear, as well as workshops on the natural world, drawing cartoons and solving problems with the AA's latest story character, Patrolman Pete.

A two-hour rap workshop led by MC and Mayhem will introduce children aged 8 and over to writing, rapping and exploring the world through the power of words. And poet Carol Ann Duffy and musician John Sampson will entertain 6- to 10-year-olds with an hour of poems, princesses and very peculiar people.

www.abdn.ac.ukword; www.braw.org.uk

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