Culture Literature

What’s on: Growing Stories at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival

We all know the city of Edinburgh is world-renowned as a hub for cultural arts. In August, festival-goers flock to Scotland’s capital to soak up everything the Festival Fringe has to offer. What we tend to forget, however, is that the arrival of autumn doesn’t mark the end of our city’s celebration of culture: there’s always more to see, to do, to experience.

This October will see the 30th anniversary of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, which will bring a spirited and exciting series of events across Scotland, focused particularly in Edinburgh. The Festival, which will take place between the 19th and the 31st, will showcase some of Scotland’s most valued storytellers alongside guest raconteurs from far and wide. Following a theme of Growing Stories, get ready to be immersed in a whirlwind of storytelling, from workshops helping to develop your personal storytelling skills to a marathon 12-hour storytelling session.

For just shy of a fortnight, stories both traditional and modern will abound across the country, not only working to preserve Scotland’s traditional cultural heritage but to build new relationships between a variety of storytellers and listeners through one of the longest-established cultural arts. Indeed, much of the programme for the Festival is dedicated to the exploration of the epic Gaelic sagas, the works of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, Diarmaid, Grainnhe and Ossian, highlighting not only Scotland’s oral traditions but also its ancient ties with Ireland. Scottish or otherwise, it’s the perfect opportunity to discover more about the historical conventions that helped shape the city of Edinburgh.

What does it mean to be Celtic? What does Gaelic sound like? Who was The Bard, anyway? In a society ever far-removed from its roots, these are the questions we should be asking ourselves. We all live and study in Scotland, and yet so much of its historic culture is invisible to us. The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the traditions of Celtic culture. And as if you needed an excuse to witness the incredible fire performance of Beltane Fire Society on Calton Hill, the Festival culminates on Halloween night with their annual Samhuinn Fire Festival, a Celtic celebration of the transition from summer to winter.

The Student will be covering events from the Scottish International Storytelling Festival over the coming two weeks. For more information, please visit

Image: Colin Hattersley.

By Maisy Hallam

By day, Maisy is Literature Editor for The Student and a fourth-year student of Linguistics and English Language at The University of Edinburgh. By night, she is an environmental activist and avid crime fiction reader. Follow her on her slowly developing Twitter, @lostinamaiz.

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