Wirdsmit is a creative writing group set up in 2011 by writers Alison Flett and Amber Connolly for children and young people aged 8-15 living in Orkney. Initially under the umbrella of Orkney Library and Archive, it became part of the George Mackay Brown Fellowship in 2012.

The group meets regularly throughout the year and members enjoy the time they spend writing together. Sessions are led by writer Gabrielle Barnby and planned with input from the group on the writing activities they want to try. In a typical session there will be a warm-up exercise, a stimulus for writing and the chance to read and listen to each other’s work-in-progress. Sharing is encouraged; equally, no one has to read aloud or show their work at times when they prefer not to.

Over the years local and nationally known writers have led workshops for the group. Some have remarked that they wish a group like Wirdsmit had existed when they were younger.

Three anthologies of Wirdsmit’s writings have been published by the GMB Fellowship: Wirdsmit: A Sea of Stories, Word Ribbons and Spring Wark. The last of these includes a selection of writing in English and Orcadian from Sanday, Stronsay and Westray Junior High Schools as well as writing and drawings by Wirdsmit members. You can read more about Wirdsmit’s publications by using the links at the foot of the page.

Poems and prose written during a workshop with RSPB officers and writer Yvonne Gray were also used in Hen Harrier, a booklet published by the RSPB illustrated with drawings and paintings from pupils at Firth Primary School.

Wirdsmit also commissioned That Bright Lifting Tide: Twelve Orkney Writers to introduce not only young writers in Orkney but others too to the variety of writers and writing in the islands. The booklet was compiled and edited by writer Alison Miller as part of a year-long project celebrating the richness of Orkney’s literary and storytelling heritage.

Wirdsmit has had links with other organisations in Orkney, for example the RSPB, and has run an open session as part of the Orkney Nature Festival each year 2015-19.

Sessions are free of charge. These aim to reflect the interests of its members who are encouraged to share in the selection and planning of activities. Currently, due to Covid-19 restrictions, sessions are held online on Zoom.

Some of Wirdsmit’s writing activities are shared on the group’s public page on Facebook. If you would like to know more about the group or would like to enquire about joining us please email Gabrielle Barnby (Wirdsmit Leader) at gmbfellows@gmail.com or send a PM via the Wirdsmit Facebook page.


Wirdsmit: A Sea of Stories

Word Ribbons

Spring Wark

That Bright Lifting Tide

Hen Harrier (out of print)

Featured image: Iain Ashman

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