Scotland's Stories - Once Upon a Place

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival (24 October - 2 November), will this year follow the theme 'Once Upon a Place', offering ten incredible days of events for adults and children that will explore the past, present and future, and the relationships our memories and stories have to where we are and have been.

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Part of Homecoming Scotland 2014, this year’s festival aims to share the vibrant stories of Edinburgh, taking audiences on physical and narrative journeys through the history of this city, which has thrived as a literary hub for centuries. Dive into the world of Robert Louis Stevenson in an event that combines music and the poetry, diaries and letters of Scotland's best loved author, or improve your understanding of the beautiful Canongate area with a series of events exploring its myriad histories.

There will also be unique opportunities to physically explore the city, from exclusive trips into Edinburgh's underground vaults to learn their histories to events in the Royal Botanic Garden, where audiences are invited to walk with storytellers, intertwining location and narrative.

From wider afield, hear about the spirit of the ecologically rich Tentsmuir, in North East Fife, from those who love it, or the now abandoned island of St Kilda, where for years a small population of Gaelic speakers eked out a living in its beautiful but unforgiving landscape. Enter the darker side of history with an exploration of the Scottish witches - were they devil worshippers, healers, or gender rebels? And every evening, join storytellers around the hearth for a relaxed, traditional session of sharing tales.

As well as the best Scottish storytellers, international guests will once again gather at the festival to create spaces for sharing tales across cultures. From Aoteorea (New Zealand) come two storytellers whose performances present unique rhythms from across the Pacific. Other storytellers hail from Europe and North America. Italian speakers or those with an interest in language won't want to miss a bilingual storytelling event in Italian and English, based on stories from Fiesole in Tuscany.

A particular highlight of this year’s festival will be the 31 October, All Hallows Eve, the Night of Samhain, the Gaelic festival that was the precursor to Hallowe'en. This year, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival will celebrate this special night with an event around the hearth, storytellers and musicians gathering together to welcome the winter and the spirits of the past.

The festival also offers an excellent programme of children's events. Join in a family felt making session, in which stories and hands-on craft will work together to explore the forms and patterns of living nature, or head down to Gorgie City Farm for animal tales among cows, sheep, pigs and ducks. Teachers, educators and artists will love the full-day Education Day: Place Based Learning, in which story maps, local songs, multimedia and much more will be explored in workshops and discussions, allowing you to take the storytelling festival into your classrooms or children's events. 

Donald Smith, the Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, said of the 2014 programme:

The landscape is a reservoir of memory and of meaning. Walking and travelling is a way of connecting with thousands of years of history. We need to restore and nourish this connection between humanity and nature or we will destroy the ground of our own existence. So it's a healing process too. Often the stories and myths of landscape are latent rather than explicit - I talk sometimes about listening to the land, just as you might listen to a storyteller.
One of the best things about my storytelling involvement has been traveling to all parts of Scotland. We are living with an extraordinary environment, rich in beauty, inspiration and tradition. We can feel all that on our skin because actually it's already bred in our bones.

So be sure to save the dates for this enchanting festival. Check out the special advance preview of the programme to whet your appetite, and keep checking back as more festival details are announced.

Image: Scottish International Storytelling Festival

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