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Celebrating cultural links with Canada: £80,000 to support creative collaboration

Published: 11 Feb 2019

An international project to develop new creative work and collaborations between Scottish and Canadian artists and festivals has been awarded £80,000.

The Festival Expo funding, which is supported by the Scottish Government through Creative Scotland, was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on a visit to Connaught Public School in Ottawa, which held writing workshops initiated by the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

The 2019 Scottish International Storytelling Festival will have a special focus on Canada showcasing new creative work developed by Scottish and Canadian artists. ‘Canada – Scotland: Coast to Coast’ will also include a cultural exchange on indigenous languages.

Work for children and young people is a key element of the Storytelling Festival’s work and it’s great to see this celebrated during the First Minister’s visit to Canada- Mairi Kidd, Creative Scotland

As well as teachers and pupils, the First Minister met Inuit children’s author Deborah Kigjugalik Webster to talk about the shared cultural links between Scotland and Canada – particularly the art of storytelling, the benefits of reading, and the ways they interact to inspire and inform children about cultural heritage and identity.

She said: “Scotland has a long history of storytelling and is a large part of our heritage. It is a history that is alive and well today.

“It was fascinating to hear from Inuit author Deborah Kigjugalik who, when her daughters were growing up, recognised there weren’t enough stories for children explaining the Inuit heritage and so decided to write some herself.

“This funding will spark a fascinating exchange of Scottish and Canadian cultural heritage, including a celebration of our indigenous languages.

“Raising attainment is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s work and the Ottawa International Writers Festival works with the city’s most disadvantaged and challenged neighbourhoods and progressive schools.

“It has been great to share experiences of initiatives to improve literacy, such as the First Minister’s Reading Challenge, which aims to build a culture of reading from a young age – allowing young people to discover for themselves the fun and power of reading.”

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, said: “The 2019 Scottish International Storytelling Festival is delighted to headline ‘Canada – Scotland: Coast to Coast’ in its international exchange, thanks to Festival Expo support. Canadian guests will perform in Edinburgh and travel across Scotland, pioneering the importance of storytelling to build inter-cultural bridges and showcasing story, dance and song.”

Mairi Kidd, Interim Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing, Creative Scotland, said: “Scotland and Canada both have a strong heritage of storytelling, and our histories interact in complex ways. During the UN Year of Indigenous Languages many of our organisations plan to celebrate and investigate links between the diverse peoples of Canada and Scotland and the Storytelling Festival will lead the way. Work for children and young people is a key element of the Storytelling Festival’s work and it’s great to see this celebrated during the First Minister’s visit to Canada.”


The Ottawa International Writers Festival, which started in 1997, recently hosted Ian Rankin to talk about his 22nd Rebus book, ‘In A House of Lies.’ OIWF’s writers-in-schools programme (WriteOn!) has connected more than 100 Canadian and international writers with more than 20,000 young learners.

In 2017 the OIWF launched the republic of childhood, which celebrates the creativity of children and youth through intensive writing workshops with established writers. The writing is published in chap book format and shared in a public performance at the national arts centre.

The Festival Expo fund is supported by the Scottish Government through Creative Scotland.