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

Edinburgh Tradfest enjoys virtual success

Published: 17 May 2021

Karine Polwart plays guitar while seated on stage

Singer song-writer Karine Polwart presented Rebellious Truth as part of Edinburgh Tradfest.

The first ever digital edition of Edinburgh Tradfest came to a crescendo on Monday 10th May with the rearranged Rebellious Truth lecture from Karine Polwart, with performances from Mike Vass and Mairearad Green and presented in partnership with the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The Festival’s programme travelled the airwaves around the globe, reaching traditional music fans in America and Australia, as well as across Scotland and the UK.

Over 400 people tuned in to Edinburgh Tradfest’s ‘live’ events, with a further 3,000 people enjoying the new Edinburgh Tradfest Podcast – about four times the Festival’s previously recorded largest audience. Overall the Festival featured over 40 artists from the world of folk music, producing around a total of 770 minutes of entertainment.

Highlights of the programme included the opening concert Shetland Springs, presented in association with the Shetland Folk Festival and curated by accomplished Shetland fiddle player Catriona Macdonald; interviews with international guests Aaron Jonah Lewis and J.P. Cormier; and insight into the life of a folk musician, with stories from Kinnaris Quintet, The Shee, and Gaelic supergroup Dàimh.

In addition to the University of Edinburgh and Shetland Folk Festival, Edinburgh Tradfest once again partnered with the Scottish Storytelling Centre for the launch of Scotland Online: A Directory of Musicians which will celebrate the online directory with an event on Tuesday 18th May.

The programme received praise across the board, with audience members appreciative of the digital format for this year:

Thanks for that from the bottom of my heart. I enjoyed every nanosecond of it.
- Shetland Springs audience member

I’d forgotten quite how heart-stoppingly beautiful Karine Polwart’s voice is. What a joy to hear her sing and speak tonight.
- Rebellious Truth audience member

Loving these podcasts –  entertaining me; educating me. Thank you so much.
- Edinburgh Tradfest Podcast listener

Douglas Robertson and Jane-Ann Purdy, co-producers of Edinburgh Tradfest said: “In the circumstances Edinburgh Tradfest 2021 exceeded our wildest expectations.

“Our first ever livestream - the Rebellious Truth lecture by Karine Polwart - proved extremely popular as did our series of podcasts (another first) which allowed our listeners to hear directly from the musicians themselves how lockdown had affected their lives and how they had coped. Some had built home studios, others had delivered groceries or worked on the fishing boats. All of them, however, displayed energy, enthusiasm and a determination to hit the ground running when the world returns to ‘normal’.

“The Shetland Springs recorded concert not only entertained our audience but allowed Shetland Folk Festival to celebrate their 40th anniversary with some island music performed by some of their finest players.

“We’d like to thank all the musicians who took part, our fantastic crew and PR team, our funders, partners, and everyone who told us how much they enjoyed the festival. We look forward to meeting you all again in the flesh at next year’s Tradfest.”

Lori Watson, lecturer at the school of Celtic & Scottish Studies at University of Edinburgh said: "Edinburgh Tradfest created a brilliant first digital festival and I loved every minute of it! The festival included two major livestream events, the first lecture/performance Rebellious Truth 2021: Karine Polwart (a brilliant night of ideas, difficult questions and beautiful music) as well as Shetland Springs and a series of podcasts that, quite frankly, were a stroke of genius in these times. Edinburgh Tradfest’s response (after having to postpone in 2020 and amid shifting rules in 2021) has been energetic, culturally relevant and supportive of the musicians. Long may it continue."

Siobhan Anderson, Music Officer at Creative Scotland said: “Congratulations to Edinburgh Tradfest on a brilliant 10 days. The podcasts have provided a real insight into the lives of musicians over the past year and the closing Rebellious Truth Talk from Karine Polwart was inspiring. This online edition of Tradfest has created an important moment for the music community and fans to come together to celebrate our world class trad and folk music until live events can return to the festival circuit.”

Laura-Beth Salter (The Shee, Kinnaris Quintet) said: "The Edinburgh Tradfest podcasts have been a great way to reconnect with the trad music scene. I've really missed the chats on long journeys to gigs and gatherings that happen after shows. The podcasts have been a great way to get an insight into what loads of musicians have been creating and how they are getting on.  I even found out stuff I never knew about my own band mates! What a lovely series to be involved in. Thanks Jane-Ann and Douglas!”

Acid Croft pioneers Shooglenifty said: “We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the response to the inclusion of our chaotic ramblings in the Edinburgh Tradfest podcast. And we were honoured that our Edinburgh-themed track 'Silence of the Trams' was adopted as theme tune for the festival. Thank goodness that Tradfest was anything but silent this year. We loved it!”

Piper and fiddler Malin Lewis said: “ I was so glad to be asked by Edinburgh Tradfest to take part in their podcast. It's a really cool project full of interesting and uplifting stories from so many awesome people! I got to know a little more about some very talented people who I look up to and with the lack of live concerts it felt very fresh to be making something like this.”

The Edinburgh Tradfest Podcast will be available to listen to for the next year, and the festival hopes to return in full force 29 April - 9 May 2022.

Highlights from the 2021 programme are available on the Edinburgh Tradfest website.