Scottish International Storytelling Festival announces a blend of online and in-person events

Scottish International Storytelling Festival announces a blend of online and in-person events

Tour to the Hebrides, starring Christopher Craig and Andy Cannon / credit: Neil Hanna

2020 edition of the festival to explore Scotland's coasts and waters through music and storytelling

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) returns this autumn with a programme that will allow audiences to take part both in person and online. Under the theme 'In the Flow', the festival will place an emphasis on Scotland's coasts and waters through music and storytelling, promising a mix of virtual events and small-scale physical events that will celebrate Scotland as 'a nation shaped by the sea'.

Over 100 performers are expected to take part, with countries included in the programme ranging from the USA and Canada to Columbia and Kenya. In total, there will be 93 events in Edinburgh and across Scotland, with 43 of these planned to be in-person experiences subject to Scottish Government guidelines. The events will look at themes such as Scottish colonial history and our connection to the natural world, with the programme containing a range of perspectives and experiences.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival announces a blend of online and in-person events

The Adventures of Aud by Fran Flett Hollinrake, Kate Fletcher and Corven Broch / credit: Mark Woodsford-Dean

One major element of this year's festival is Voyage, a series of new work developed by storytellers and musicians for VisitScotland's Year of Coasts and Waters, supported by the Scottish Government Festival Expo Fund. The series is made up of 14 performances by Scotland-based storytellers that will be streamed online, each participant sharing tales of real and imaginary voyages that have connected Scotland to other coastal countries, near and far. Highlights from the series include Apphia Campbell and Mara Menzies, who collaborate for the first time on Nanny of the Maroons, sharing the story of the Jamaican hero 'Queen Nanny'; Donald Smith's reimagining of Boswell's iconic travelogue The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides; Nicola Wright, who revives the almost forgotten Scottish National Antarctic Expedition by explorer William Speirs Bruce; and David Francis and Hamish Napier's musical collaboration Speyside to Fireside, which celebrates the River Spey.

Elsewhere on the programme, Leaving Iona is a new show by Donald Smith and Heather Yule, which will take place at St Columba's by the Castle, giving voice to the women, poets and monks of Columba's / Colmcille's story 1500 years after his birth. Scuttlebut Stories! at Padlox Escape Rooms in Leith sees local storyteller Jan Bee Brown and musician Toby Hawks invite audiences to join them for some stories and songs of the sea that link Scotland and Scandinavia. Participants can also find events at Universal Hall Findhorn, the Scottish Crannog Centre near Aberfeldy, Abbotsford House and other locations in the Borders. At the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, open mic Storytelling Cafés will also take place every day of the festival from 4pm.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival announces a blend of online and in-person events

Scots in the Antarctic: A Tale with Penguins, Pipers and a Dog named Russ by Nicola Wright / credit: RBGE and Glasgow University Archives

The workshop programme strand Global Lab returns, with a series of digital workshops with live participation which will bring together storytellers, artists, activists and educators from across the globe to explore sustainability, ecology and healing. Contributors include New York-based Laura Simms, who will speak on deep healing and ecology; social and environmental activist Grian Cutanda, who will share his work on the Earth Stories Collection; and Julie Cajune and Douglas Mackay, whose work explores connections between Native Americans and Scotland.

For audiences looking to get out and about, the programme features some promenade performances too, such as Storytelling Walks; which depart from the Scottish Storytelling Centre; Enchanted Garden: Paths of Stories, which lead audiences on story walks around the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; and Sangs an' Clatter: Campfire Tales at Damshot Woods in Pollock, which returns storytelling to one of its most traditional settings. This year's festival closes with a celebration of the Feast of Samhuinn, for which the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is on the hunt for Scotland's greatest ghost stories. People all over Scotland are encouraged to discover local ghost stories in their area, with a storytelling workshop due to be held to encourage storytelling enthusiasts of all ages to have a go.

Speaking at the launch, Scottish International Storytelling Festival Director Donald Smith said: 'Stories and songs are vital for human survival. They carry our emotions, memories and values. They bind us together as families, communities and a nation, especially through tough times. The Scottish International Storytelling Festival will continue to channel that flow with an increased focus on wellbeing in the year of Covid-19.'

Scottish International Storytelling Festival, various venues and online, 17–31 October. For tickets and more information, visit

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Scottish International Storytelling Festival

A celebration of live storytelling and imagination uniting Scottish and international storytellers and musicians. Performance, workshops, talks and children's events radiate out from the capital with guest storytellers from across the globe. The 2021 edition will be centred around our changing environment and different…

Various venues: Edinburgh

Fri 15 Oct

Times & prices vary / 0131 556 9579

Sat 16 Oct

Times & prices vary / 0131 556 9579

Sun 17 Oct

Times & prices vary / 0131 556 9579

…and 14 more dates until 31 Oct

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