Once upon a place in Edinburgh

Once upon a place in Edinburgh

By Lindsay Corr, Scottish Storytelling Centre

You may think Edinburgh’s festival season is over – but think again.

Just as the seasons change, the ten-day Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) comes to the city. Inspired by the Scottish ceilidh tradition of gathering together on dark nights to share anecdotes and songs, the Festival is a celebration of live storytelling, oral traditions and cultural diversity.

Storytellers and musicians from Scotland and around the world are set to descend on the capital for the Festival, which has grown significantly since its inception in 1989, when it welcomed 700 attendees. In 2013, a huge 23,000 people took part in the festivities, highlighting a resurgence in the popularity of oral traditions, which are the backbone of Scottish culture.

Each year, the Festival has a theme to focus on and this year it’s 'Once Upon a Place'. There are many enticing events that explore past, present and future Scotland, and the relationship between how memories and stories relate to where we are and have been.

The events

People are invited to discover the fascinating life of Robert Louis Stevenson through his diaries and letters, as one of Scotland's best loved authors is celebrated in poetry, song and story. They can also celebrate the 200th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather, with a superb re-telling of the tale, a prologue for toddlers, Tales of a Granny, and Andy Cannon’s contemporary remix, Tales of a Grandson.

There are opportunities to uncover stories about more remote parts of Scotland, such as the fascinating tale of the remote archipelago of St Kilda, which used to be home to a small population of Gaelic speakers who eked out a living in a beautiful but challenging landscape. People can also hear about the spirit of the ecologically rich Tentsmuir, in North East Fife, through song, story and music from a trio of performers who perfectly encapsulate the nature and the spirit of this special place.

A duo of storytellers from New Zealand will showcase their unique rhythms from across the Pacific, with other international guests hailing from Europe and North America. Those with an interest in different languages won't want to miss bilingual storytelling based on stories from Fiesole in Tuscany in Italian and English.

One highlight of the Festival is always the All Hallows Eve and the Night of Samhain, which celebrates the Celtic and Gaelic routes of Halloween. This year, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival will celebrate this special night with an event around the hearth, with storytellers and musicians gathering to welcome the winter and the spirits of the past.

There’s also an excellent programme of children's events, the majority of which are free of charge. There’s a family felt making session, where stories and hands-on craft intermingle, as well as a storytelling day at Gorgie City Farm. Some of the UK’s storytelling royalty are holding exclusive workshops, such as England’s Ashley Ramsden, Scotland’s David Campbell and Seoras Macpherson.

Storytelling is at the heart of human communication, offering ways of understanding ourselves and our history. Whether you’re a storyteller yourself, a listener, or someone who is completely new to the craft, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is the place to be this autumn.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is held in Edinburgh between October 24 and November 2, 2014. See the full programme and book tickets for the Scottish International Storytelling Festival here.

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