The North East’s Finest

Local writer Shane Strachan introduces you to the writers he will host in this year’s Aberdeen Unbound!

Following the success of last year’s Unbound event in the bar of Aberdeen Arts Centre (then ACT Aberdeen) during the first Aberdeen Booked! Festival, an even bigger cabaret-style event will take place this year upstairs in the theatre, bringing you a mix of readings and music from the north east and beyond – all for free! This year’s event takes place from 8pm on Thursday 24 August – visit our event page for details.

Relax with a drink while enjoying a mix of prose, poetry, nature writing, drama and song at this two-hour celebration of words. Here’s who’ll be entertaining you throughout the night…

Shane Strachan

Shane Strachan‘s short stories about the north east’s fishing communities have appeared in New Writing Scotland, Gutter, Stand, Northwords Now and many other publications. As well as hosting this year’s Unbound, Shane will read an excerpt from his current project, Quines at Sea, a present-day adventure novel about a group of women escaping small-town Scotland on a fishing trawler to travel across Europe; it’s sure to make for a fun and exhilarating start to the evening, with an added dash of Doric!

Esther Woolfson

Esther Woolfson’s first natural history book, Corvus: a Life with Birds, was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 in 2008; it was closely followed by her debut novel, Piano Notes. In 2013 she published a second natural history book, Field Notes from a Hidden City, an urban nature diary which uncovers and celebrates the animals that live among us in Aberdeen. At Unbound, Woolfson is sure to delight and surprise you with a new perspective on the city.

John Aberdein

Born in the Granite City, John Aberdein has published poetry, short fiction and two novels reflecting and responding to Aberdeen. The first, Amande’s Bed, is a moving coming-of-age novel set across a huge range of city schools, hospitals, shops and workplaces in 1956: it won the Saltire First Book of the Year Award in 2005. His second, Strip the Willow, is a challenging, extravagant work about the bankrupt city of Uberdeen/Leopardeen under threat from a sinister corporation: it won the 2010 Scottish Fiction of the Year Award. A master stylist, Aberdein is certain to provide a riveting reading.

Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela won the first ever Caine Prize for African Writing in 2000 and is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories and several radio plays. Her experiences of growing up in Khartoum and moving to Aberdeen influence much of her work, visible in her debut novel, The Translator, about a widowed Muslim mother who falls in love with a Scottish secular academic; it was long-listed for the Orange Prize, as were Minaret and Lyrics Alley, the novels which followed. Her latest, The Kindness of Enemies, moves between two time periods, with prose that will make for a lyrical and arresting reading.

Jake Arnott

Jake Arnott’s debut novel, The Long Firm, was a bestselling and critically acclaimed success which went on to be adapted into an award-winning BBC 2 drama. Following a string of further successful near-history crime novels, his latest, The Fatal Tree, heads further back in time to 18th century London with the use of quirky slang from the time that has been compared to A Clockwork Orange – expect a vibrant treat for the ear!

Morna Young

Morna Young is the recipient of the 2017 Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship, hosted by Creative Learning (Aberdeen City Council). For this year’s fellowship, the theme is ‘The Folk, the Language and the Landscape of the Northeast’, which is evident in much of the theatre work Morna has written and produced during a busy and varied career. Her plays include Netting, a Play, a Pie and a Pint sell-out success, and Lost at Sea, due to tour in 2019, following successful tours of B Roads and Neverland. Morna will share an exclusive preview of some of the new work she has been writing as part of her Fellowship for the first time during her Unbound performance.


Multi-talented Morna will be joined by bandmate Sandy Nelson to “folk up” some of your favourite songs throughout the night. Following a year-long residency at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, their Folkify nights have been a big hit there and in other parts of Scotland, and we’re excited to have them play in Aberdeen for the first time in the Arts Centre. Not to be missed!

This article was written by Shane Strachan. Shane’s stories and poems have been published in Stand, Gutter, New Writing Scotland, Northwords Now and others, and he has also had theatre work staged in Aberdeen. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen and has delivered creative projects in Scotland, Germany and Zimbabwe. He is represented by Jenny Brown Associates.

Please note, since the publication of this article John Aberdein and Leila Aboulela have regrettably had to cancel their appearance. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

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