A typical day at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is like a story itself: there’s no telling where it might end up. One-off events mean that every day is different, every performance somewhat spontaneous – there’s a real buzz about engaging with content that keeps developing in the moment, as opposed to scripted shows.
The Festival radiates out from its base around the Scottish Storytelling Centre, through the iconic Old Town and around Edinburgh, and throughout Scotland with our Festival on Tour strand. You can spend the day at the Home of Scotland’s stories, uncover tales in every nook and cranny of the capital city, or make a day of it and see more of the country.
With storytellers jetting into Edinburgh from all over the world – this year we welcome visitors from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, England and Wales – and Scotland’s own rich seam of storytelling talent primed and vocally flexed, there is a smorgasbord of live storytelling events, talks, walking tours, storytelling workshops and family entertainment to ensure everyone is entertained, all delivered with an air of welcome, camaraderie and intrigue.
While the Scottish International Storytelling Festival team are busy beavering away at the Festival’s hub – the Scottish Storytelling Centre – morning activities abound for families and early birds throughout the city. Lots of visitors and storytellers start their day at the Storytelling Centre, sharing tales and discussing performances while enjoying a cuppa at the Storytelling Café. During the Festival, coffee and cake is almost as important as storytelling!
Each morning the SISF team have a brief, organising the pool of volunteers who generously donate their time to help ensure visitors navigate their way around partner venues. They also provide an extra source of information on the Festival programme, and a link between the core staff and partners.
Behind the scenes, performance spaces are prepared and tech is sorted. Journalists keen to share the tale of the Festival with the world attend press trips or meet our performers at meet and greets, as well as attending the varied selection of events.
Mornings are also a great time to catch the Festival Exhibition at the Storytelling Centre, not to mention the range of events taking place around the city. This year’s morning highlights include a fun-filled cruise of story and song on the Lochrin Belle Canal Boat, tales of animals in-situ at Gorgie City Farm and Edinburgh Zoo, plus a fascinating series of talks and lectures entitled Experiencing Gardens at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
The afternoon means business as usual, with plenty of events to keep visitors busy! You can fill your boots by dipping in and out of themed sessions highlighting how different cultures can blend to create wonderful stories – a principle focus for 2015.
Explore The Ties that Bind and Open Table sessions, mixing together food and stories to keep both mind and body happy. Visitors can also journey round a host of moon myths and star lore at Dovecot Studios surrounded by stunning tapestries, or enjoy a Mercat Tour uncovering the Secrets of the Royal Mile (and believe me, there are plenty!)
This is definitely my favourite part of the day during the Festival: when the hustle and bustle of a busy afternoon dies down, and a hush falls across the room as you become engrossed in the timeless art of a tale being spun. The long, dark winter nights are perfect for gathering together and hearing tales of myth and legend, firing the imagination with twists, turns and the surprises of fantastic and factual yarns from near and far.
Open Hearth events are always extremely popular and are back by popular demand after featuring in the 2013 and 2014 Festival programmes. They offer a great opportunity to see different performers, weaving together a mosaic of stories and an exploration of cultures. The sessions perfectly exemplify the relaxed, traditional approach of storytelling as an art form that should be experienced eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart.
After a rich helping of words, music, film extracts, poetry and song, the day comes to an end. Guests filter out into the Edinburgh night, often stopping by the numerous pubs to have a wee dram and a blether, while the duty manager ensures everything is as it should be in the Home of Scotland’s Stories and locks the doors – until the next morning, when the stories spring back to life all over again.
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs from Friday 23 October to Sunday 1 November. Full details of the programme, and tickets to all events can be found at http://www.tracscotland.org/festivals/scottish-international-storytelling-festival.