Our website uses cookies. See our cookies page for information about them and how you can remove or block them. Click here to opt in to our cookies

Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2020

Published: 16 Sep 2020

Photo of a man telling a story to a group of people outside
Photo by Colin Hattersley

First Edinburgh Festival of 2020 to host live events reveals programme as Scottish International Storytelling Festival prepares for a blend of online and in-person events.

This autumn, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) takes audiences on a voyage, exploring Scotland’s coasts and water through music and storytelling.

The programme for the 2020 Scottish International Storytelling Festival is revealed today as the festival theme ‘In the Flow’ promises an eclectic mix of online events spanning across the globe and small-scale face-to-face events, celebrating Scotland ‘a nation shaped by the sea’. Events shine a light on lost stories of Scottish and international culture, give a new perspective on historical experiences and captivate, entertain and educate audiences on everything from Scottish colonial history to our connection to the natural world. Over 100 performers will take part in the festival and countries represented include USA, Colombia, Canada, Italy, Spain, England, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Holland, Iran, Sierra Leone and Iceland. 93 events in total will take place in Edinburgh and across Scotland with 43 of these planned to be in-person experiences subject to Scottish Government Guidelines.

SISF’s ‘In the Flow’ will present 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. Premiered as a pre-recorded studio broadcasts to be streamed online, Voyage is a collection of fourteen performances by Scotland based storytellers sharing tales of real and imaginary voyages that have connected Scotland to other coastal countries, near and far.

Highlights in the Voyage programme supported by the Edinburgh Festival Expo Fund and CalMac Ferries include:

  • Award winning performers Apphia Campbell and Mara Menzies collaborate for the first time on Nanny of the Maroons sharing the story of the Jamacian hero ‘Queen Nanny’ leader of the known as the Windward Maroons who helped those fleeing enslavement on Scottish owned plantations.
  • Donald Smith’s reimaging of the iconic travelogue Johnson and Boswell’s Tour to the Hebrides featuring leading actors Andy Cannon and Christopher Craig.
  • Storyteller Nicola Wright revives the almost forgotten Scottish National Antarctic Expedition by explorer William Speirs Bruce whose success was ignored by the Royal Geographic Society.
  • One of Scotland’s best loved storytellers Andy Cannon steps over 700 years back in time as he sets out on a journey to bring the first ruling Queen of the Scots from Norway to Edinburgh Castle in Tales of a Grandson: The Maid of Norway.
  • Award winning storyteller Fiona Herbert is joined by musician Emma Durkan as she draws the story of the mythical Cailleach from the depths of the world's third largest whirlpool Corryvreckan in Argyll and Bute.
  • Music collaborations see David Francis & Hamish Napier celebrate the River Spey in Speyside to Fireside, and in Deiseal | Sunwise Mike Vass joins Ian Stephen for a journey to St Kilda, and ancient instrument musician John Kenny collaborates with sister Marion on The Voyage of St Brendan.

John Kenny playing Loughnashade Horn
John Kenny playing Loughnashade Horn, photo by Hugh Beauchamp

Speaking at the Festival 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."

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 the country.

“I’m also pleased that in connecting people and communities with culture in new and inclusive ways, Storytelling Festival is continuing Scottish festivals’ proud traditions of innovation and creativity.”

The programme is available now at www.sisf.org.uk.

Listings Information

Scottish International Storytelling Festival
17 - 31 October 2020
Online and in person in Edinburgh and across Scotland
For tickets and more info visit www.sisf.org.uk

Connect with the festival on social media at:  

Follow the festival and share experiences on social media using the hashtags:

Media Contact

For further information, images and interview requests please contact Owen O’Leary, Oh Really PR on 07815 992658 or email owen@ohreally.co.uk


Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) is organised by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS), taking place annually in autumn since 1989 and is one of the flagship events built on a culture of collaborative working with Festivals Edinburgh, sustaining and developing Edinburgh’s position as the world’s leading festival city. www.sisf.org.uk

Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (SCIO, SC043009) is a collaborative alliance designed to improve the knowledge, practice, development and advocacy of Scotland’s traditional arts in a contemporary world. TRACS brings together three forums: Scottish Storytelling Forum (SC020891), Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland (SC045085) and Traditional Music Forum (SC042867). Supported by Creative Scotland and The City of Edinburgh Council. www.tracscotland.org

Communities and Family Programme bookends and runs from 12 Oct – 30 Nov 2020 alongside the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. This year, the programme will pair local storytellers with partner organisations and schools in digital and small-scale live settings – keeping things safe and slow with a varied and enjoyable programme for all. Contact Miriam@tracscotland.org for more information.

Scottish Government Festivals Expo Fund administered by Creative Scotland, promotes the development of Scottish artists and creative expression and supports many of Scotland’s leading Festivals. www.gov.scot

PLACE [Platforms for Creative Excellence] Programme administered by Creative Scotland, is a three-way partnership between the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Festivals, supporting innovation, creative development and community engagement. PLACE Programme, City of Edinburgh Council.

The Wild Goose Festival held in Dumfries and surroundings, uses the migratory route of the Barnacle Geese between Svalbard and the Solway Estuary to join people, nature and ideas. Produced by The Stove Artists Collective, Wild Goose Festival unites key partners – Caerlaverock Wetlands Centre, Scottish Natural Heritage, Moat Brae Centre for Children's Literature and Storytelling, Glasgow University Dumfries and PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Society) - in an exploration of nature, creativity and connection. Planned with COVID restrictions in mind, this will be one of the first live events in the region since lockdown began.

Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Historic Environment Scotland, Marine Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Sail Scotland, Scottish Canals, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Water and Scottish Tourism Alliance. The year, led by VisitScotland, aims to sustain and build upon the momentum of Scotland’s preceding Themed Years to spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s unrivalled Coasts and Waters, inspiring future visits, as well as encouraging responsible engagement.

Earth Charter Initiative is an ethical foundation for actions to build a more just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It articulates a mindset of global interdependence and shared responsibility. It offers a vision of hope and a call to action.

Supported through Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund, Creative Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, Festivals Edinburgh, Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 and Caledonian MacBrayne.

Special thanks to Edinburgh partners: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Padlox Escape Rooms, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature.

Special thanks to regional partners: Orkney Storytelling Festival, Wild Goose Festival, Elphinstone Institute, The Village Storytelling Centre, Universal Hall, Hillfoots Tales, The Cabrach Trust, Aberfeldy Town Hall, Scottish Crannog Centre, Birks Cinema and storytellers in Highlands, Scottish Borders and the North East of Scotland.

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.

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery.