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The Scottish International Storytelling Festival: Telling a nation’s stories

Graham Liney is part of the Scottish Storytelling Festival
Graham Liney is part of the Scottish Storytelling Festival

Storytelling has been with us since the moment we felt the need to communicate with others.

From paintings on cave walls to the new digital world, we’ve found a way to inform and entertain through the use of stories.

It has to be said too, from the bus to the pub to the stage, Scotland is a nation of storytellers. We love those friends who can hold a room when telling a tale.

A long tradition

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival has been celebrating stories and storytellers for more than 30 years and this events with its expansive Go Local strand covers more of Scotland than ever before.

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, says: “I’ve heard people talking about the Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival. I have to ask them what they’re talking about. It doesn’t exist.

“It’s always been a Scottish festival and although we have a fantastic base in the city, we have more events than ever before throughout Scotland.”

Last year’s festival was obviously held under pandemic conditions with mainly online events, but there were outdoor events held in gardens and parks.

Super Duper Story Generators collage by Beth Hamilton-Cardus.

There were even sessions for people who were shielding where a storyteller would go to a garden an entertain through the window.

That human connection was vital, adds Donald Smith.

“The online sessions were really successful in that it allowed storytellers from around the world to join us,” adds Smith. “In fact we have maintained a large online programme for this year, in addition to outdoor events and returning to indoor events.”

Nicola Wright.

The past year has been a time to rediscover our own areas, and the Go Local strand of this year’s festival is a chance to find out even more through local stories and music.

It also gives local storytellers, who are out in their communities, keeping the tradition alive, all year a wider platform for their work.

In Dundee, the Blether Tay-Gither storytellers have events in two of the city’s most inspiring locations.

Three Rivers Rising by Claire Hewitt.

On Sunday, October 24, there’s an event at the Dundee Botanic Garden as part of the garden’s 50th anniversary.

Storytellers, including Sheila Kinninmonth and Owen Pilgrim, dive into the festival’s overarching theme of Imagine through stories and tales.

Then, on Monday October 26, it’s all aboard the HMS Unicorn, where the group will be joined by guest storyteller Mara Menzies.

There will also be songs from local musician Lynne Martin, as well as the Blether storytellers, again exploring the Imagine theme.

In Fife, Beth-Hamilton-Cardus from Good Yarns will be working with one child or family at a time Dunfermline Carnegie Library as part of the Super Duper Story Generators! Event.

It’s taking place between Monday, November 15 and running until Sunday 21 with the  sessions lasting 30 minutes.

Story walk at Gannochy Gorge

Angus is making the most of its outdoor spaces.

On Sunday, October 31, Gorge-ous Nature Stories is an event led by storyteller Cara Roberts.

Follow here through the Blue Door on this story walk, which takes place beside the beautiful Gannochy Gorge.

Inspired by the surroundings and the creatures that live within it, Roberts will explore the myths and stories that are as much part of the landscape.

With our ancient folk tales, the stories celebrate the natural wonders of our own countryside. It’s not one for people who are unsteady on their feet and proper walking shoes will be required, as the path is uneven.

Contact for more information.

Events at Scottish Crannog Centre

Over in Perthshire there are events across the areas.

The Scottish Crannog Centre is hosting a Samhuinn Festival for Hallowe’en.

As you’d expect from the name, this is celebration of the Celtic festival. Ap[art from storytelling and magic, there’s also music to warm the chill of the night.

The lone-up includes The Leveneers, Dave Delph and Izzie Hanby, alongside the Hedgewitches, shadow puppet performances, and Samhiunn traditions.

Stories from the rivers

Over at The Birks Cinema at Aberfeldy  on Thursday, October 28, Three Rivers Rising is a celebration of the Water of Leith, the River Tay and the Firth of Forth.

These three iconic waterways have inspired storytellers Svend-Erik Engh and Claire Hewitt and musician Neil Sutcliffe.

Three Rivers Rising uses stories, songs, music and the lore of these waters.

One of the most keenly anticipated events of this year’s festival takes place at Pitlochry Festival Theatre on Saturday, October 30.

The tale of James Croll

From Floor Sweeper to Climate Pioneer is the fascinating tale of James Croll.

Croll was a  Scottish janitor who was born into poverty. Even though his life was hampered by poor health, he became one of the fathers of  climate science and was completely self-taught.

Storyteller Nicola Wright will look again at Croll’s fascinating life, as well as his theories, in a properly theatrical production.

It’s the season for big jumpers, huddling around the fire and telling stories… these will only inspire you to start telling your own.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs until October 31.