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Pushing Out the Boat at the WayWORD Festival

Poetry and Prose Via Zoom at the WayWORD Festival

Despite the continuing COVID restrictions, Pushing Out the Boat was lucky enough to be involved in a literary showcase via Zoom last Sunday night on the 27th of September. Combined with readers from Leopard Arts, a literary collective run by Creative Writing students at the University of Aberdeen, five regular POTB contributors took to the (virtual) stage to showcase some of their work. The event was the final reading on the WayWORD programme and was chaired jointly by myself and by Leopard Arts editor, Will Creed.

The Leopard Arts crew went first and provided a range of spectacular pieces, from spoken word poetry on the theme of modern life under pandemic conditions, to musings on American politics. After this hard act to follow, our segment of the evening was opened by Judy Taylor. Judy began her reading with Gerard Rocheford’s poem “Scarecrow”: a touching tribute to the North East poet, who died at the end of last year (Judy wrote a separate appreciation of  Gerard on our blog earlier this year). Judy, who is a long-standing POTB team member, regular contributor, and a panellist on this year’s prose selection panel for Issue 16 of the magazine, then read one of her own poems about austerity and the pinched economic landscape of recent years.

Next up, Aberdeen based writer and author of the 2019 poetry collection, Fallen Stock, John Bolland read an evocative vignette set in and around the Aberdeen oil scene. Capturing the grim and gritty feel of the North East, Bolland’s reading made fine use of the distinctive Aberdeen dialect and granite scenery. John’s reading led on to a reading by acclaimed Aberdeenshire author, Sheila Templeton, who has just been announced the winner of this year’s McCash Prize for Poetry in Scots. Sheila read poems from her upcoming collection, Clyack, which is due to published later this month. The first of these was a moving dedication to her late sister, while another was written in Scots and charted the experience of her “Granda” who, on his journey across the Atlantic in 1912, believed he saw the very same iceberg that sunk the Titanic. “The Iceberg that Sunk the Titanic” is published in Issue 15, the current issue of Pushing Out the Boat.

After this, Gavin Gilmour read an excerpt from his current work in progress: a novel set in the North East that features an angry and apathetic young man as its protagonist. With pithy dialogue and touches of dark humour, Gavin’s piece built a strong sense of place and character and undoubtedly made listeners eager to hear more. Forfar writer Eleanor Fordyce concluded the evening’s readings, finishing with a pair of poems written in Doric and, once more, capturing the strong voice of the North East that defined the evening’s performances.

The reading was attended by around 50 audience members, who could watch the readers from home on their own Zoom connections. The event concluded with a lively Q & A session in the Zoom chat and was a lovely way to end a festival that had featured so many inspiring local events. Although many of the readers commented that it was certainly a new and strange experience reading to a webcam rather than a live audience, the event went off without technical glitches and suggests a welcome possibility for future POTB events in the time of corona. Although not yet online, all WayWORD Festival events were recorded and will be available for online viewing soon!


From left to right: Lily, Judy, John, Sheila, Gavin, Eleanor

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