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Once Upon a Place… Storytelling Festival launches in Edinburgh

SISF Launch 2014


Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs was entertained by storyteller David Francis and clarsach player Rachel Newton as they launched the programme for the 2014 Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

The 2014 Scottish International Storytelling Festival begins on 24 October and runs for ten days until the 2 November.  The programme is themed Once Upon a Place and celebrates Edinburgh’s reputation worldwide as a city bursting with culture, as well as being the world's first UNESCO designated City of Literature.

The programme was launched by Director of the Festival, Donald Smith with special guest Fiona Hyslop, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, plus a preview performance from Rachel Newton and David Francis who present Meeting the Fairies on Hallowe’en.

Scotland is welcoming the world in 2014 and in this Year of Homecoming, the Storytelling Festival is an important event on the Homecoming calendar, bringing together home-grown talent and acclaimed storytellers from across the world to tell tales and enthral audiences.  The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is the perfect event for everyone from home or abroad who wants to explore what is distinctive and special about Scotland and its international connections, with a programme that combines storytelling ceilidhs with talks, landscape tours and specially commissioned performances, and the finale weekend marks the ancient Celtic New Year of Samhain/Hallowe’en.


Festival Director Donald Smith explains more:

‘We are delighted to present the programme for this year’s festival; it’s packed with exciting events and a fantastic mix of homegrown storytelling talent and as well as global visiting storytellers.  The theme of place is key to us, as Edinburgh is such an inspiring city. 

'Over the years it has produced an array of wonderful writers, some of whom we’ll pay our respects to during the festival, and as an ever evolving vibrant place it continues to inspire year on year.  I’m also very pleased that we are able to reach out beyond the city limits with a programme of events taking place throughout Scotland.’

There will be special events commemorating the great storytellers and thinkers of Edinburgh including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Fee – a storyteller who had a fantastic backdrop of Old Town Tales that have been gathered into a book.

The major strands of the Festival programme highlight the appeal for visitors and residents alike to uncover more of Scotland, as well as further afield:

  • Commonwealth Connections – reaching across the Pacific region through storytelling.
  • Seeing Stories – a European movement in Scotland, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Norway and Wales to recover landscape narrative, celebrate the magic of place and preserve for the future through sustainability and conservation. This strand includes Storytelling for a Greener World at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which will fill the space with quiet magic and wonder.
  • Re-imagining Scotland – inspired by the bicentenary of Sir Walter Scott, Scotland’s people are remaking their collective story as we speak in an ongoing journey and this strand reimagines Scotland’s history as the peoples’ story rather than tales of Kings, Queens, empires and battles. It celebrates Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather through events Tales of a Granny and Unrolling Walter Scott’s Magic Carpet at the National Museum and three-part feast, Tales of a Grandson at the Festival Theatre with the fantastic Andy Cannon, which promises to be energising, inclusive and informative fun for all ages.
  • Festival on Tour – takes international and Scottish guest artists to communities across Scotland including;  Glasgow, Dundee, Fife, Aberdeen, Perthshire, Orkney, the Isle of Bute, Oban and the Scottish Borders for tales of local traditions, landscapes and history. This year also sees the first Primary School Storytelling Festival in Eyemouth, as it hosts 1000 children across five primary schools and three nursery schools for a day of story sharing.

SISF LaunchThe SISF 2014 strandsare supported by the Scottish Government Edinburgh Festival Expo Fund, and the Festival was launched by Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs:

I am delighted once again to see such a rich and diverse range of tales on offer at this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival, played out through story and song, to celebrate the importance of places to our cultural life in Scotland. The theme of Once Upon a Place is particularly apt, in this the 2014 Year of Homecoming.

The Scottish Government is pleased to be supporting the 2014 Festival through our Edinburgh Festival Expo Fund. The Festival will enhance and creatively communicate a shared experience of place, by bringing together local and international dimensions. From projects inspired by the bicentenary of Sir Walter Scott’s first novel, to Storytelling for a Greener World, there is an exciting array of events to engage and inspire.

Highlights of the programme include:

  • Open Hearth Sessions – evenings celebrating common humanity and stories and songs that connect across the continents.
  • Halloween celebrations including Ballads and Tales of the Supernatural at the Storytelling Centre and Haunted Tales of Old Edinburgh at the Museum of Edinburgh.
  • The Glorious Half Mile to Holyrood – an afternoon of story sessions, talks, walks and tours using the superb central buildings of this special townscape. Over fifty individual events in one afternoon will showcase Edinburgh – City of Story – and the fantastic Old Town evocations.
  • And, not to be forgotten, an exhibition and book re-prising Richard Demarco’s Road to Meikle Seggie – the 1970’s pioneering endeavour to bring stories/traditions of place and the contemporary arts together, as the Festival is doing through Seeing Stories today, with guest storytellers form Germany, Portugal, Wales, and Italy, and the further afield from the Canadian Pacific, Pacific Islands and New Zealand. Demarco’s exploration began at The Netherbow Well and then radiated out, while we are bringing people from many places back to the source.