Join the youth-led WayWORD arts festival: 19-26 September

This guest blog was wriiten by Kirstie Lawie of the WayWORD Festival. She tells how the WayWord Festical bridges the gap between STEM and the arts.

The WayWORD Festival was devised by students at The University of Aberdeen to showcase art forms not usually appreciated by the canon of literary festivals. We wanted to branch out and touch corners of creativity that can be overlooked by the wider public and invite people from different backgrounds to discuss their practice.

Supported by the WORD Centre for Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, WayWORD celebrates arts, including literature, visual arts and performance, which all intersect with different themes and knowledge bases. That was where we discovered our tagline – Unconventional Forms of Expression. There are 47 events ranging from street art to animation to live author readings, and they almost all intersect between disciplines.

One of our events is explicitly STEM related: Climate Change with STEM Poets John Bolland, Mandy Haggith and Eveline Pye. We hope that this event will encourage others working in or studying STEM subjects to attend and dispel any myths that you have to chose between the arts OR sciences. The two disciplines can work in harmony and inform each other. By marrying such an important topic with a non-academic medium we hope to blend and bring people together from different disciplines.

Some of the events aren’t so obviously concerned with STEM. The ‘Neurodiversity, Disability and Creativity Panel’, featuring visual artist Jill Boyd, dance and performance-maker Claire Cunningham and poet Nuala Watt. The panellists will discuss the intersection between neurodiversity and disability with their creative work, and there is little doubt that medicine and science will come into discussion.

The Festival includes workshops in creative practise, including the Speaking of Sound: Online Sound Art Workshop with Nathan Wolek, who will be delivering the event live from the USA. The event combines the technology of sound recording equipment with the creativity of music production.

The University of Aberdeen has a long relationship with the writing of Nan Shepherd, a local writer and former student whose fame grew with the publication of her novel The Quarry Wood. This year, at WayWORD, we are drawing on her books A Pass in the Grampians and The Living Mountain as key texts in our discussions about nature writing, in both the Nature Writing Workshop with Zakiya McKenzie and the Nan Shepherd Event (with writer Zakiya McKenzie and composer Colin Riley). This is a perfect example of how STEM influences creativity – the sensations and realities of nature driving Nan’s writing.

It’s not only the event topics that are driven by STEM. The ‘new world’ of online learning has been a steep learning curve for the University but one which has been embraced so that we are accessible as possible. Online streaming platforms have enabled us to use both live captioning and a wonderful on-screen BSL Interpreter. Moreover, last year’s festival was attended by a global audience.

What inspires the student committee, who both devise and run the events, is an interest in new ways of looking at the world. And, in essence, that is the same for those working or studying or interested in STEM – aquiring new information through which to view the world. Artsist and scientists simply go about this in different ways.

Tickets for WayWORD Festival are free and can be found at There will be closed captions and BSL available throughout the festival.

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