Edinburgh Tradfest Goes Online for 2021

Edinburgh Tradfest is set to return this year with an exciting online programme running from 30 April – 10 May 2021, thanks to continued support from Creative Scotland’s open funding programme and the William Grant Foundation.

Edinburgh Tradfest showcases a wealth of talented home-grown and international traditional artists. It will move online for the first time this year, with a programme of recorded and live streamed music concerts, folk films and daily podcasts.

The Festival will kick off on Friday 30 April at 20:00 with a specially commissioned event originally planned for the 2020 event – Shetland Springs: a celebration of the Shetland fiddle tradition. This hour-long concert celebrates the rich and distinctive tradition of the ‘spring’, (the dialect name for old Shetland dance tunes) and is presented in association with the Shetland Folk Festival, an event that normally shares our opening weekend. Curated by Catriona Macdonald (String Sisters), it will feature performances from Catriona and other luminaries from the northern isles, including Margaret Robertson, Chris Stout, and Ross Couper.

The main programme will be broadcast daily and presented as a series of nine podcasts presented by Douglas Robertson and Jane-Ann Purdy from Edinburgh Tradfest. Episodes will explore traditional music in Scotland, some of the characters of the Edinburgh folk scene, as well as featuring tracks and interviews from some of Tradfest’s 2020 line-up. These include Romanian singer-songwriter Lizabett Russo; iconic Scottish band Shooglenifty; banjo virtuoso Aaron Jonah Lewis; Scottish folk band Kinnaris Quintet; the truly original Moishe’s Bagel; one of Scotland’s most highly touted traditional folk bands Old Blind Dogs; piper, fiddler Malin Lewis and more to be announced.

Also as part of the Festival, the Scottish Storytelling Centre will host the online launch of Scotland Online: A Directory of Musicians (Friday 7 May 20:00), a comprehensive and ever-expanding list of musicians working and recording in Scotland. Presented by the Traditional Music Forum and TRACS, the launch will feature special pre-recorded performances by Rachel Hair & Ron Jappy, Maeve Mackinnon (with Ali Hutton & Luc McNally) and David Foley & Jack Smedley (with Jenn Butterworth), as well as a live Q&A with the artists.

The finale of the Festival will be the much-anticipated Rebellious Truth (Monday 10 May 20:00) live streamed from St Cecilia’s Hall in Edinburgh and presented in partnership with the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The evening will explore our passion for the traditional arts, its history and future, and will mix live performances and presentations from School of Scottish Studies by Traditional Artist in Residence Mike Vass and Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart.

Douglas Robertson and Jane-Ann Purdy, co-producers of Edinburgh Tradfest said: “Taking the Festival online this year was a difficult decision for us. However, we couldn’t be more delighted with how this year’s programme is shaping up, and with all the support we have received from artists, funders and partners keen to see Tradfest stay on the map.

Leading traditional fiddle player Catriona Macdonald (Shetland Springs) said: “When Margaret Robertson and I played for Spotlight back in 2020, it was really special, not only were we playing live, but we were also playing tunes that are at the heart of our island’s heritage. We are thrilled to be getting together to record this concert next month with the rest of our band from ‘Da Auld Rock’. In these times we are well overdue due a musical ‘spree’, and really glad we can be part of this year’s festival.”

Singer-songwriter Karine Polwart said: “Folk song is a wee window into the experiences of those who lived before us, the challenges they faced, and the fights they fought in their own times that yield us many of the rights and privileges we enjoy now. But  I’m just as fascinated by what these songs and stories tell us about the moment we’re in now. My inaugural Rebellious Truth lecture will dig into the history of misogyny and sexual violence, and the stories of women who rebelled against societal norms and expectations, as told in our traditional songs and archives.”

Edinburgh Tradfest 2021 will run Friday 30 April – Monday 10 May. For tickets and more information visit edinburghtradfest.com.  

Jim Welsh

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