Wigtown’s YA Line Up Performance Poetry, Top Novels, Songwriting & More 

From song-writing sessions, book discussions, astro-journaling, and performance poetry – Wigtown Book Festival has an exciting and diverse line-up of events aimed at young adults. 

Among those taking part are author and singer-songwriter Christine Pillainayagam, performance poet Imogen Stirling, author and celebrity journalist Benjamin Dean and Derry-based author and peace worker Sue Divin.

Christine’s Ellie Pillai is Brown follows a teenager’s disastrous experiences navigating first love, friendships and strict parents, and has an accompanying album that can be listened to one song at a time by scanning QR codes printed in the book.

She is running a workshop at the festival where she will help young people learn how to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas by writing their own song lyrics.

Christine said: “I have always loved writing songs as a way of expressing myself. It’s a great way to get your feelings out, especially for teenagers who often don’t feel they have a voice and aren’t listened to. 

“The feedback I get from these sessions is great, people sometimes say how it’s given them a whole new passion and that they have really got into writing songs.” 

With peer pressure meaning that so many young people self-censor in order to avoid expressing thoughts and feelings that would make them look uncool, writing lyrics provides a fresh and creative outlet.

Sue Divin’s novel, Truth Be Told, is described as “Parent Trap meets Derry Girls”. It’s a fast-paced story about Northern Irish teenagers Tara and Faith, one from an urban Catholic background and the other from a rural Protestant community, who meet and find the look uncannily alike.

While much fiction from Northern Ireland is set during The Troubles, Sue’s work is about the generation that has grown up since the Good Friday Agreement but is deeply permeated by long-standing divisions and conflicts between and also within its communities.

Sue said: “My books are both set now – I’m really writing the complexity of peace and peace building. My protagonists are the “peace babies” generation who never experienced The Troubles – but they’ve grown up with the legacy of conflict.  
“Because of that however, they are able to find out about aspects of history at the same time as the reader. It’s a shared learning journey.”  

She feels Truth Be Told is a story that young people everywhere can relate to, but which might have a particular resonance in Scotland.

Sue said: “Any time I visit Scotland it feels like a home-from-home. My sense is that not just the culture, religious or social divisions would resonate, but also the sense of humour, that dry, self-depreciating wit and the style of language.  
“My writing includes a lot of Northern Irish turns of phrases which are akin to what I hear spoken in Scotland and probably stem in Hiberno-English and Ulster-Scots. There’s nothing we all like better than to slag ourselves off with originality!” 

All the young adult events at Wigtown Book Festival are free to those under 26 and pay what you can for everyone else.

Among the other YA events are:

  • Love the Sinner: Scottish performance poet Imogen Stirling blends poetry, theatre and electronic music. The show is a modern retelling of the seven deadly sins – a loose alliance of characters struggle to comprehend their identities in a world bladed with criticism and obsessed with self-betterment.
  • Astro-Journaling: Join author Annaliese Avery for a live journaling workshop. A fun, interactive event where she talks through the basics of keeping a journal with a focus on her astro-journals about her hobby of astronomy.
  • The King is Dead: Benjamin Dean talks about his YA debut, which is A Black LGBTQ+ Royal Reimagining. The King is Dead is filled with scandalous secrets, rollercoaster romances and one hell of a mystery; Gossip Girl but make it regal.

Tickets and full programme www.wigtownbookfestival.com.

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