Arts community pays tribute following death of WordPlay ‘instigator’ Alex Cluness

Tribute has been paid to accomplished writer and former literature develop­ment officer at Shetland Arts, Alex Cluness, who died at the weekend.

Mr Cluness, who has been described as one of the “instigators” of WordPlay, had been a board member of Shetland Arts and also served as arts development manager during his time at the organisation.

He was described as “second to none” by Kathy Hubbard, who worked alongside him at the arts agency.

“He was teriffic,” she told The Shetland Times.

“He was intelligent, articulate and funny. He had a sense of humour that just fizzed like a Roman candle. It was just amazing.

“His imagination and creativity was second to none, really. He was just a truly terrific person to have been around, and I feel so lucky to have known him.”

She also highlighted his writing ability, insisting Mr Cluness was a “wonderful poet” – even if he was very modest.

“He didn’t push himself out. It was left for other people to give his work the recognition it deserved.”


He was an excellent person – funny, modest, and kind. His company was always a life-affirming pleasure. MARC LAMBERT


One such person is isles writer, Donald Murray, who said few people had moved him and helped him quite so much in his creativity.

“He was possibly the most inspirational person I’ve ever come across. He helped me considerably in my writing and a lot more besides.”

Marc Lambert at the Scottish Book Trust (SBT) said: “Alex was from a notable Shetland family and one of the instigators of Word Play, Shetland’s literary festival.

“He was a good poet himself, and did a lot of work – first in Shetland, then elsewhere – in supporting and developing new writers.

“He was an excellent person – funny, modest, and kind. His company was always a life-affirming pleasure. He was very kind and supportive to me as a newbie at SBT. Later I returned the favour in helping (in a very minor way) him and his colleague Tracy set up Literature Works, which enables and nurtures literature development activity in South West England.”

A statement from Shetland Arts stated the organisation was “shocked and saddened”.

“As Shetland’s first literature development officer he was responsible for an explosion of literary activity throughout the islands, supporting new writers and creating Shetland’s book festival, Wordplay. It was in keeping with his sense of fun and his commitment to young people that the first festival was entirely for children.

“Many people have reason to be thankful for his kindness and his patience and his belief in them. As a colleague, we remember him as intensely creative, modest, caring, and endowed of an irrepressible sense of humour and a poetic sensibility second to none. He will be missed.”


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