Book in for Scottish International Storytelling Festival

The coronavirus has not had many positives but it has helped us all fall back in love with our own country again.

Saturday, 3rd October 2020, 7:21 pm
On the hunt...for spooky stories the length and breadth of the country for this year's Scottish International Storytelling Festival. (Pic: Colin Hattersley)

And, as a result, the 32nd staging of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival this month is going to be the biggest yet.

While many events are smaller and outdoors, to meet government guidelines and pandemic social distancing measures, this year’s programme is not short on entertainment, offering something for all ages to enjoy in communities across the country.

There are 93 events, a mix between online and in-person, in Edinburgh, Dumfries, Findhorn, Orkney, Alloa, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Aberfeldy and the Borders.

Tour to the Hebrides...Donald Smith’s reimagining of iconic travelogue will feature Andy Cannon and Christopher Craig. (Pic: Neil Hanna)

This year’s theme, In the Flow to celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters, also aims to tap into our love affair with our homeland.

Donald Smith, festival director, said: “We were determined that the festival should go ahead, albeit in a different way this year.

“Before Covid-19, we’d been speaking to storytellers and musicians across the country about this year’s theme.

“If anything, lockdown gave people a chance to really start investigating some of the stories about Scotland’s connection with our coast.

Spinning a yarn....is something Scots are renowned for and this month there's a chance to celebrate the art of storytelling in communities across the country. (Pic: Colin Hattersley)

“There are also more events in our communities than ever before, meaning this year’s festival will be the biggest yet.

“People have been out and about at rivers, burns, shores, ponds and gardens and have fallen in love with Scotland again.

“In this year of Covid, and Year of Coasts and Waters, we want to celebrate that, while rightly keeping everyone’s safety in mind.

“But people getting outdoors and connecting with the landscape and each other has been so critical this year and will become even more so this winter.

Donald Smith, festival director, said: "People have fallen in love with Scotland again. In this year of Covid, and Year of Coasts and Waters, we want to celebrate that."

“We’re responding to the way people have already been inspired to reconnect with the outdoors and we hope, in turn, to inspire others.”

Storytellers, musicians, schools and community groups across the country all lend their weight to the annual festival.

And this year more have signed up to take part, with some 120 Go Local community events planned.

Donald said: “The festival doesn’t happen in isolation; we collaborate with not only the artists but groups from all over Scotland.

“Our community and family programme has 120 events this year, when normally there are around 90 sessions.

“That shows just how much demand there is this year – it’s snowballed.

“Some of these will be digital; others will be small events staged outdoors in small venues or schools.

“There’s a lot of folk out there in our communities looking for the connection that storytelling and sharing stories offers.”

The festival is always timed to end at Hallowe’en and this year that too will offer communites across the country a chance to share and be part of it.

As the festival closes with a celebration of the Feast of Samhuinn, a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. So the organisers are now also on the hunt for Scotland’s greatest ghost stories.

Donald added: “It’s the time of year when dark overtakes light.

“It used to be a time when life moved indoors in Scotland, people sat by their fires and told stories.

“What we have found over the years, at storytelling sessions all over the country, is that each area, or even families within those areas, have experiences that are spooky and inexplicable.

“It used to be the case that older people would tell these stories, usually telling of a time before electric lights.

“But it hasn’t diminished in modern times; those tales are still out there and, often, it’s the youngsters who are really good at recounting these spooky stories.

“So we’re casting a net across the nation to discover ghost stories that have haunted each local area.

“And we plan to celebrate these tales with an online discussion, a free workshop and a sharing event on the last day of the festival, Hallowe’en, on October 31.”

If you don’t have a tale to tell but would love to unearth something ghoulish, fear not. The festival has partnered with The School of Scottish Archives and they’ve got some great tools to help you research.

Anyone interested in taking part but would like more information should email [email protected]

This year’s festival runs from October 17 to October 31, with the community and family programme running from October 12 to November 30.

It is organised by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland and is supported by Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council, which is also home to the Scottish Storytelling Centre where some of this year’s events originate.

To find out how you can get involved or to book tickets, visit www.sisf.org.uk.

Communities can give something back with the Big Scottish Story Ripple

Scottish school pupils and community groups will have the opportunity to apply for free live storytelling sessions.

However, in return, they must pledge good deeds to their local community on or before St Andrew’s Day, creating The Big Scottish Story Ripple.

It is part of the community and family programme, supported by Caledonian MacBrayne Hebridean and Clyde Ferries.

Billed as a local celebration of storytelling, schools and community groups are being encouraged to apply for a fully-funded storytelling session.

Successful applicants will receive a free one hour session led by a professional teller.

Events can be held digitally or in small local gatherings that adhere to Covid-19 guidelines.

Miriam Morris, national development officer for the Scottish Storytelling Forum, said: “This is a great opportunity for schools and community groups to share and connect with stories in their own creative way – engaging with one of Scotland’s traditional art forms via contemporary means while simultaneously giving back to their communities.

“We aim to offer financial support to all those that apply.

“However, if there is an over subscription, we will operate on a first come, first served basis.”

The deadline for applications is Monday, October 5. Schools can apply at bit.ly/TBSSR and community groups at bit.ly/TBSSRC.

For more information, email [email protected]