October 2021 Sees Return of Scottish International Storytelling Festival

Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) is organised by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS), and has been taking place annually in Autumn since 1989.   This year, it returns with an eclectic mix of online events that will beam across the globe along with small-scale face-to-face events. This year’s festival invites audiences to imagine something different – pasts, futures, or a timeless other.

Stories and songs are vehicles for our emotions, memories and values, binding us together as families, communities and a nation, especially through tough times so are a vital element of human survival. As we emerge from the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the SISF will continue to engage, inspire and entertain.

As restrictions ease in Scotland, the SISF plans to return to theatres, including the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, while continuing to develop the festival’s digital programme so as to keep serving international audiences and those who cannot attend in person. A series of small-scale and safely distanced person-to-person events, including ones in outdoor locations, will also form part of the 2021 programme, with all  plans subject to Scottish Government guidance in the autumn period.

For the first time, SISF 2021extended an open invitation to storytellers, who are either based in Scotland or are working here, to join the Festival’s creative process by submitting a proposal on the theme of Imagine. The result is a series of new works developed by storytellers and musicians, supported by the Scottish Government Festival Expo Fund. Imagine includes adventures with John Muir, tales of resilience and survival in Lithuania, an introduction to the father of climate science and scenes from Partition India.

Running alongside SISF, is the Community and Families Programme that will pair local storytellers with partner organisations in online and small-scale live settings. Add to this Global Lab that will focus on international environmental creativity.


SISF Director Donald Smith said, “This year’s Storytelling Festival is about showcasing the power of storytelling to create our own worlds, to celebrate human spirit and ingenuity and to help us imagine new ways of being. As we come to terms with the lasting impact of the pandemic and look forward to COP 26, now is the time to ask: Do stories have a power to change lives? Could this time of global crisis also be the crucible for change? This year I’m particularly excited about our Imagine strand in the programme and the results of working closely with the storytelling community across Scotland. This spirit of co-creation, will help us build back better and stronger, whilst feeding the roots of storytelling traditions in artistic communities across Scotland.”

In 2021 SISF will present many pay what you can events, and present an opportunity to donate in support of the performers. Overall, the aim is to support as many performers and to reach out to as wide a public as possible.

SISF runs from 15th – 31st October 2021 and will be available in person in Edinburgh and online across Scotland. SISF will also be collaborating on events with the Orkney Storytelling Festival and the Wild Geese Festival in Dumfries and Galloway.

The full programme will be launched on Tuesday 21st September online at the SISF website.

Irene Brown

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