Festival teams up with British Library to create 'word map of modern Britain'

Festival teams up with British Library to create 'word map of modern Britain'

The inaugural Words Weekend festival has revealed a partnership with the British Library to curate the Words Weekend Travelling Word Bank, billed as “a word map of modern Britain”.

Words Weekend today (Friday 23rd August) announces a new partnership with the British Library to create a word bank that will document modern English usage in each region the festival visits. The recordings will be used to create a word map of modern Britain that will become part of the British Library’s extensive archive of accents and dialects.

The inaugural Words Weekend festival, programmed by Fane Productions, will take place at Sage Gateshead in Tyne and Wear from 6th to 8th December 2019. With the plans first revealed last November, more than 50 events and workshops will take place across five different spaces of the Gateshead venue, with diversity and accessibility at the heart of the programming. Around 35% of events will be completely free and all are fully accessible and BSL interpreted.

Authors on the line-up include Grayson Perry, Stacey Dooley, Nadiya Hussain, Kerry Hudson, Marian Keyes, David Olusoga and Elif Shafak, with more to be announced in September. There are five Words Weekend festivals planned for 2020 - with The Lowry in Salford and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London already announced.

In a public space at each festival venue, Words Weekend will have pop-up recording booths where members of the public will be invited to record a word or phrase they find interesting or amusing in their local dialect or that they use with friends and family. They will be asked to explain how they use the word and to reflect on why they feel it is special to them.

The recordings will be deposited at the British Library, where they will be archived and made available online for schools, broadcasters, universities and researchers, to explore and use now and in the future.

Jonnie Robinson, lead curator of spoken English at the British Library, said: “We’re delighted to support Words Weekend in celebrating the linguistic diversity of the UK and are particularly excited that we will be archiving contributions of dialect and slang from visitors to the festivals – this collection will be a great addition to the Library’s wonderful archive of regional voices.”

Word Weekend artistic director Beth Gallimore said: “This project really captures what Words Weekend was set up to achieve; to create a national platform for diverse and under-represented voices. Starting at Sage Gateshead in December and continuing in 2020, our audiences will contribute to a word map of modern Britain, recording the words that matter to them and helping to preserve the unique identity of each region we visit.”