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The Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2014

20 October 2014

Storytelling Fest Credit Peter Dibdinscottish International Storytelling Festival 736

[Image: Peter Dibdin, Scottish International Storytelling Festival]

It was a dark and stormy night…

Ok, so that’s possibly not the most original of opening sentences, but it’s one that’s still reasonably likely to be true as Edinburgh waves goodbye to the summer and moves into autumn.

So, as the wind begins to chill, the nights grow shorter, and the trees abandon their chic, vibrant greens in favour of this season’s gentler browns and golds, what better way to spend your time than gathered with friends in a cosy room, engrossed in a tale from a master storyteller?

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival (24 October – 2 November) is the world’s finest feast of traditional storytelling. Under this year’s theme of “Once Upon a Place”, the festival looks at the ways in which where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going, all affect who we are, and how we express ourselves through narrative.

Over the ten days Edinburgh will come alive as a city of storytelling with an enthralling line up of events. Here are just some of the highlights…

Great Scott

In the 200th anniversary year of his debut novel, Waverley, you’d expect Sir Walter Scott to feature strongly here - and you would be right.

Scott’s re-telling of Scottish history (originally begun for his own grandson) inspires three events, Tales of a Grandfather: Unrolling Walter Scott’s Magic Carpet presented by Festival Director, Donald Smith; Tales of a Granny, aimed at 3-5s, and Tales of a Grandson: The Dig, The Feast and the Hooly (6+) a three part event featuring dancers, musicians and a choir of grannies (!), all pulled together by storyteller Andy Cannon.

Scott’s influence continues with Borders storyteller Mary Kenny introducing Stories and Songs of Sir Walter Scott, while Donald Smith considers John Buchan’s Guide to Walter Scott and Sigrid Rieuwerts of the National Library of Scotland unveils a re-publication of Scott’s first major work in Scott’s Singing Muse: Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders. The NLS is also the venue for Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, an exhibition of the library’s treasures which illuminate the publication of the novel.

War Stories

2014 marks another, more solemn, anniversary with the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Events commemorating those lives lost include Commonwealth Stories of WWI with Scottish-Canadian storyteller Phyllis Davidson, and Near not Far – World War One’s Divergent Voices, a specially commissioned live performance based on first hand testimony from those who witnessed, opposed or took part in the conflict.

Near not Far complements the exhibition Behind the Lines: Personal Stories of the First World War which, like the performance, takes place at the National Library of Scotland.

Families (ages 7+) can also learn about the war through Macastory: A Soldier’s Tale, which uses shadow puppets, song and rhyme to tell the tale of young Archie and his fellow soldier Rudi as they meet across the lines during the 1914 Christmas truce.

Tales from the Pacific

Legendary Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, travelled extensively in the South Pacific, and his tale is relived in his own words through song, in Robert Louis Stevenson – The Life Journey.

More tales from the South Seas are told in Rhythms from New Zealand with Grace Taylor and Tusiata Avia, both of whom also take part in two of the festival’s regular Open Hearth sessions at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

And from far across that great ocean, Canadian storyteller Dawne McFarlane shares the rich traditions of Canada’s west in From the Pacific Coast, while Geordie MacIntyre and Alison Moreland capture the spirit of John Muir in Mountain Vision: The Landscape Experience.


As October comes to an end, the Storytelling festival turns to the dark and mysterious traditions of Hallowe’en and Samhain with a lineup of spooky events.

Witches Brew with Fiona Herbert takes a look at the Scottish witches, asking whether they were healers, devil worshippers or perhaps gender rebels.

And on the 31st itself there’s a whole range of supernatural storytelling, with Haunted Tales of Old Edinburgh capturing the capital’s gruesome history, while stories of Samhain are passed on in Exploring Celtic Traditions with George MacPherson.

Storytellers, singers and musicians David Francis and Rachel Newton spin a creepy yarn of the Good Folk in Meeting the Fairies, and there are more spirits to be encountered as Marion Kenny and Susanna Orr Holland perform Ballads and Tales of the Supernatural.

Finally, Orkney’s Tom Muir hosts a special session of Edinburgh’s regular storytelling session in Grave Tales: Festival Guid Crack at the Waverley Bar, and Hallowe’en Hearth at the Storytelling Centre gathers artists from across Scotland for a special evening around the hearth.

For more information on the Scottish Storytelling Festival, visit their website

Words provided by Edinburgh Festivals. For information on all of Edinburgh’s major festivals, visit