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Politics and Culture: Interwoven in Traditional Culture and Still Inspiring

The role of culture in shaping our political, economic, and social lives is undeniable.

Cultural politics understands popular culture, folk culture and the arts as an arena where social, economic, and political values and meanings are created and contested. Performance avenues serve as spaces where artistic encounters, religious and political celebrations and public entertainment can all take place, giving insight into local cultures takes on significant politics, both nationally and regionally.

This Friday (24 April) at the Centre signifies the beginning of a series of events that are exploring the politics ahead of the General Election through the traditional arts. The Story Collective present Living in a Better Nation – which will feature classic Scottish myths woven with political slants as fact and fiction intertwine to spark vision and debate.

Stoor by Sigurd Towrie Douglas Mackay – one of The Story Collective which is also made up of David Campbell, Wendy Woolfson, Beverly Bryant, Janis Mackayand David Francis – explains how the collective came about:

"It was born through discussions and observations around last year’s Referendum, and a willingness to utilise stories rooted in our heritage for cultural resilience and social progress.

"Whilst the logical arguments for and against Scottish Independence seemed to add up for many of us, we mused that a more enchanting narrative could have added some zest.  Maybe those of us living in the realm of folk heroes and noble character can smell a rat or two more quickly amidst the mass media hype?  Is it possible through engaging with stories we dare to dream that wee bit more and allow the edge of dream and reality to merge?

"These are some of the musings we shared, amongst others, as we felt stimulating engagement in traditional story and song, and exploring its modern cultural, social and political relevance, was edgy enough to capture our imaginations, as well potentially being of some social service and interest, so our focus became: Age old folk tales and their modern socio-political echoes."

Selkie Girl by Sigurd Towrie Two characters repeated and revered through Scottish myth are Stoorworms and Selkies, who create the back drop for this inaugural night as Mackay explains:

"While gathering the models for nourishing popular culture through traditional stories and song seemed endless, throughout discussions we were brought to consider the Trident nuclear missiles in Faslane, where we had an eventful scouting mission, and it became apparent we had our very own modern day Stoorworm – bought and paid for by the public purse, an ominous threat in our waters capable of unprecedented and indiscriminate destruction.

"Although many other comparisons could be drawn between folk tales of old and our dynamic modern times, we also felt a Selkie tale summarised something particularly pertinent to our times.  How had Scotland’s identity been lost through relationship?  What are the fruits or children born of this union?  And can a sentient being ever accept isolation from the sea of its true nature?  A wee bit of poetic licence maybe, but apt we felt."

This event brings The Story Collective out into the public domain to invite participation and to muse on the poetic relationship between our nations story past and present, as Douglas explains that these tales retain their magic without needing to be modified:

"The stories in themselves are so strong that we deliver them almost in original form.  We don't want to question people's intelligence by actively drawing out the parallels – the tales speak for themselves. Instead we furnish the tales with other songs and anecdotes that fit the bill, and welcome people of all walks of life and political persuasions."

The Story Collective: Living in a Better Nation | Friday 24 April, 7.30pm (2hrs), £8 (£6)

Book Tickets

Further Politi-Culture themed events coming up in TradFest Edinburgh:

Stuart McHardyScotland's Future History with Stuart McHardy
Thursday 30 April, 6.30pm (1hr 30), Free (ticketed)
Blackwell’s Bookshop
The great centres of ritual in Orkney, Lewis and Kilmartin suggest an indigenous population much more sophisticated in terms of social ritual and communal rule than we have been led to believe. McHardy presents a new approach to history, changing our mindset to look at Scotland as the centre of our story.

Book your place

Traditional Scottish Songs and their Stories
Sunday 3 May, 2pm (2hrs 30), £12 (£10)
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Christina Stewart introduces specific examples of traditional Scottish songs and their links with stories and vice versa. Learn how we can use these connections to make storytelling and singing draw inspiration from each other in performance, education and pure pleasure.

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Scotia Nova Book CoverPre-Election Flyting and Debate
Monday 4 May, 6.30pm (1hr 30), £6 (£4)
Scottish Storytelling Centre
With only three days until the general election, Luath Press present this event which will debate the hottest topics in Scottish politics. Come along and make your voice heard, or just listen attentively to Scots poet Rab Wilson and academic and author Owen Dudley Edwards lock literary horns, adjudicated by Christine Robinson.

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Scotia Nova: Poems for the Early Days of a Better Nation
Tue 5 May, 6.30pm (1hr 30), Free (ticketed)
Blackwell’s Bookshop

This collection of poetry has been revised for a post-referendum Scotland. Come along to join the editors and contributing poets for an evening of poetry dedicated to Scotland’s future, and possibly a song or two. 

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What Next for Scotland’s Cultural Community?
Sun 10 May, 10.30am (6hrs 30), £5 (£3)
ForCultureScottish Storytelling Centre

A World Café day of provocations, dialogue and discussions to explore ways forward with a stellar line-up of speakers. In what will be the aftermath of the UK General Election result, this is an opportunity to come together and ask, at this historical moment, what are the big questions for culture and what are our ideas to address these questions?

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Illustrations by Sigurd Towrie for orkneyjar.com