News - Scottish International Storytelling Festival

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) invites audiences round the hearth of storytelling in Edinburgh this October. Here's a little of what's on the way ... 

Press Release

With the theme this year of Keep It Lit, a symbolic fire where experiences and memories are shared and the torch of oral storytelling is passed on, the 2022 festival programme is the largest to date; inviting everyone to the ceilidh – locally, nationally and globally.

From Friday 14th to Monday 31st October, over 240 events will form the world’s largest celebration of storytelling, anchored at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, and spreading tales across the city and wider Scotland, and around the world online. During this difficult year, a story shared is a trouble eased, and the festival will host 145 free events so everyone can find a seat round the hearth.

The festival opens on Friday 14th October with its Opening Concert: Speak Out the Other; a blend of voice and music navigating the belonging, becoming, and ‘otherness’ of queer identities that permeate Scottish myth. Performed by the Young Edinburgh Storytellers (YES), members Mark Borthwick, Ailsa Dixon, and David Hughes will perform for their freedom from the fictional Fey court, where the fair folk in the audience decide their fate.

The festival’s Opening Concert leads a series of commissioned events around Interpreting Scotland, which invite creatives from within and beyond the storytelling community to create new work around contemporary discussion points through stories past, present, and future. Examining how Scotland shapes its sense of self during this period of change.

Other highlights in the series include:

  • Fàilte Gu BSL | Welcome to BSL (Sun 16th Oct), exploring the relationship in Scottish culture between Gaelic and BSL through a collaborative performance led by Gaelic speaker, and d/Deaf musician, Evie Waddell.
  • A Fairie Tale (Tue 18th Oct), which explores Scottish race and gender identities through a mediaeval inspired landscape, reimagining the folk classic Thomas the Rhymer, through a brand new piece of storytelling and live music.
  • And Scotia Botanica: Workshops and Seed Stories (Sat 22nd & Thu 27th Oct), reflecting on Scotland’s evolving culture to revalue natural habitats, and exploring how we adapt to climate change and recognise diversity.

Graphical drawing of a landscape in orange and blue

Elsewhere in the programme, SISF celebrates language, landscape and identities with its Map of Stories events (Sat 15th Oct – Sun 6th Nov), an ambitious new project from Transgressive North for Scotland’s Year of Stories. Supported by EventScotland, the Map of Stories ‘film ceilidhs’, acknowledge the rich and diverse oral storytelling heritage of Scotland with multimedia performances from some of the country’s leading storytellers. Performed as part of SISF’s Edinburgh programme, each performance will then tour to its region of focus – Dumfries & Galloway, the North East, Perth & Kinross, the Outer Hebrides, and Orkney respectively – and explore the distinctive stories, memories and folklore arising from that particular community and landscape.

The Map of Stories live events form part of SISF’s Tales, Tongues and Trails strand; with other highlights from the programme including:
  • Hungarian storytellers Lily Asch and Csenge Virág Zalka connecting continents and traditions in Lost Stories (Tue 18th Oct); tracing movement between tradition and transformation, and how such stories are still active through who we are today.
  • Stories and traditions from the Mi’kmaq and Gaelic speaking cultures in A’ lorg Sruthan Falaichte | Finding Hidden Streams (Sat 22 Oct), examining how North America’s First Nations and Gaelic speaking emigrants handed on their culture through oral tradition.
  • A magical interlude of ancient ballads and stories from folk music duo Pictism and storyteller Stuart McHardy with Female Powers: Fairy Queens and Witches (Sun 30 Oct), focusing on Halloween and its feminine themes.
  • And an epic retelling of Sgiath: Warrior Queen of Skye (Mon 31 Oct), from storyteller Marion Kenny, and musician John Kenny.
As events in Edinburgh explore traditions and stories from around the world, SISF will invite audiences from further afield to join them at the fireside with its Global Platform, a series of digital storytelling and development sessions. Hosted by Festival Director, Donald Smith, the Global Platform will cover the Art of the Storyteller (Mon 17th – Fri 21st Oct), as well as guide discussion around the history of oral storytelling and its contemporary renaissance worldwide through its Global Labs (Mon 24th – Fri 28th Oct), held in association with The Earth Stories Collection and Earth Charter International.

Drawing of three scottish people with Go Local written beside them

Closer to home, SISF shows that Scotland sparkles with stories that are waiting to be rediscovered in its Go Local programme, with events taking place across the country, from Dumfries to Shetland. Plus, from the start of the festival until Wednesday 30 November, SISF invites communities to take part in The Stone Soup Collective. Based on a European folk story, in which strangers share a small amount of food in order to make a larger meal for everyone to enjoy; at the heart of it is a message of welcoming strangers, kindness, and support. Presented in partnership with Re-Act: Refugee Action Scotland, community Stone Soup events will bring a ceilidh of stories, song, and dance to the heart of Scotland’s communities.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, and SISF’s natural home, will play host to events; including the festival’s Open Hearth (Mon 17th – Fri 28th Oct) sessions, gathering together storytellers and musicians for a relaxed evening of stories and song in the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s cosy Netherbow Theatre. Elsewhere in the city, storytellers examine our landscape and the climate emergency; rekindle lost myths; and celebrate women’s position in Scotland’s oral storytelling tradition. 

Highlights include:
  • A tale of three fiddles and the women’s stories they have told in Binnorie: Fiddles and Women’s Stories (Thu 20 – Thu 27 Oct). With a music and storytelling workshop, followed by a performance in the round from Marie Fielding and Beverley Bryant, devised with Lori Watson and Sarah Deters.
  • The premiere of Scottish composer Ailie Robertson’s new work inspired by Craiglockhart Hill; Landscapes and Dances, Songs She Scored Out (Wed 26 Oct).
  • And 75 years after the creation of Pakistan, a live band plus storytellers and singers celebrate diversity and difference in When Mountains Meet | Jub Milain Pahaar (Thu 27 & Fri 28 Oct). Gig theatre, storytelling, and Scottish/Pakistani fusion music, presented in English and Urdu.

There’s plenty for young budding storytellers at SISF, with tales old and new to enjoy. Celebrate the new children’s storybook Silver Unicorns & Golden Birds: Scottish Traveller Tales for Children (Sat 15th Oct); an interactive, sing-along eco adventure, Plop! In the Ocean (Mon 17th Oct), based on an ancient Greek slapstick comedy all about friendship; and prepare to become a Viking poet in School for Skalds with Macastory (Sun 23th Oct), where families can create their own mini-saga and learn to tell it in the style of the ancient Viking Skalds.

Alongside these events, this year’s Festival Exhibition will be hosted at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. John Slavin: Land of the Ravens (Thu 6th – Mon 31th Oct) is a multiform exhibition, inspired by the international folk tale Jack and the Two Ravens. Plus The Big Scottish Story Ripple (Wed 12th Oct – Wed 30th Nov) returns, pairing local storytellers with schools and community groups to start a ripple of stories and kindness across Scotland.

This year, when people’s lives are under pressure on all sides, SISF is striving to make it affordable for everyone. Tickets to each event cost a maximum of £10, with family events costing £5 per ticket. For those planning on attending multiple events, the Festival Pass offers discounted tickets to many live festival events, online and at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, as well as a discount at the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s bookshop and Haggis Box Café.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs from 14th – 31st October 2022 in person in Edinburgh and across Scotland, and online. For tickets and more info visit

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