Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2020

In the Flow – This autumn, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival takes audiences on a voyage, exploring Scotland’s coasts and water through music and storytelling

17 - 31 October 2020

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) is keeping audiences ‘In the Flow’ with an eclectic mix of online events spanning across the globe and small-scale face-to-face events, celebrating Scotland, ‘a nation shaped by water’, taking you on voyages at home and away.

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.

The Festival will not do this in packed theatres, but through live and pre-recorded broadcast events, and through small-scale safely distanced person-to-person events, including ones in outdoor locations. All plans are subject to Scottish Government guidance in the autumn period.

SISF’s ‘In the Flow’ will present Voyage, a series of new work developed by storytellers and musicians for Scotland’s ‘Year of Coasts and Waters’, supported by the Scottish Government Festival Expo Fund. Premiered as a pre-recorded studio broadcast, Voyage, includes interpretations of the slave passage across the Atlantic and Scotland’s part in it, the colonisation of Iceland, James VI’s ‘Hamlet’ voyage to Elsinore, Johnson and Boswell’s Tour to the Hebrides and the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, illustrating ‘a nation shaped by the sea’.

Flowing alongside the Voyage series, the Festival will be celebrating Scotland’s own coastline and rivers, collaborating with The Orkney Storytelling Festival and The Wild Geese Festival in Dumfries and Galloway.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

‘During this challenging time living with the impacts of coronavirus, storytelling, and music have never been so important to our resilience, our wellbeing, and our sense of belonging.’

‘The Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2020, backed by £100,000 PLACE funding and over £88,000 from EXPO, will help many local artists and performers across Scotland. I’m also pleased that in connecting people and communities with culture in new and inclusive ways, SISF is continuing Scottish festivals’ proud traditions of innovation and creativity.’

Running alongside SISF from 12 Oct – 30 Nov, the Community and Families Programme will pair local storytellers with partner organisations in online and small-scale live settings, unlocking the ethos of ‘going local’. The Festival’s national reach is supported jointly by Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government through the PLACE programme, and these will continue beyond the Festival dates as community-based work again becomes possible.

Also funded through PLACE, the Festival’s Global Lab will focus on international environmental creativity. A series of digital workshops with live participation will bring together storytellers, artists, activists, and educators from across the globe to explore sustainability, ecology, and healing. This strand of SISF will be presented in association with The Earth Story Collection, and the Earth Charter Initiative. 

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival’s renowned ‘Open Hearth’ evening format will move online, with artistic participation from across Scotland and far beyond, while the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Café will hold safely distanced sessions as people rediscover the joy of ‘eye to eye, mind to mind, and heart to heart’.

SISF Director Donald Smith states:

'This year's Storytelling Festival is about wellbeing. Across the nation, we aim to bring many streams into a flowing current of hope and renewal.'

Gary West, Chair of TRACS says:

‘Now more than ever do we need to be taken on journeys to other places and other times, to see and hear ourselves reflected in them as we are now. I am absolutely delighted that the Festival will go ahead this year, as ambitious and thought-provoking as ever.’

‘Whether joining us from afar or as close-up as circumstances allow, let us gather to celebrate the diversity of the traditional arts of the world.’

In 2020 SISF will present many free though ticketed events, but there will also be an opportunity to donate in support of the performers, and there will be some charges for workshops and studio commissions. Overall, the aim is to support as many performers as possible and to reach out to as wide a public as we can, locally, nationally and internationally.

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