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Scottish International Storytelling Festival Comes to St Andrews

The 2023 Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) is set to run from 13-19 October, with events taking place across the country.

On 14 October, the Laidlaw Music Centre in St Andrews will present Bennachie Speaks, featuring storyteller Ailsa Dixon and musician Mairi McKeown, a third year Environmental Science student at the University of St Andrews.

Attendees can expect a blend of music and spoken word, as the duo combines historical legacies with insights into the Aberdeenshire mountain’s current condition. Specifically, the performers will highlight the effects of climate change on its surrounding landscape. Tickets for the one-hour performance, which will be held in the McPherson Recital Room, are priced at £5 and can be purchased on the SISF website.

Bennachie is the first show that Ailsa and I have written together, and we’ve both found it really exciting to bring some Aberdeenshire stories to life with music and song. The show will be mostly delivered as a concert, but include some immersive moments for the audience, to help them become part of the story that we tell — one of place and time, of appreciating the land and the people before us,” Mckeown said.

This year, the festival orbits the theme ‘Right To Be Human’: a call for introspection and discussions on various human rights matters, spanning from censorship and prejudice to war and gender issues. Other towns in Fife, including Falkland and Dunfermline, will also participate in the festival, each showcasing their own distinct events and narratives.

SISF’s Director Donald Smith said, “All over the world human and environmental rights are under threat. But against that, there is an activist and creative tide building towards a different future. The Storytelling Festival is part of that wave.”

Christina McKelvie, Minister for Culture, Europe, and International Development, expressed her support for the festival’s theme, emphasizing its relevance in the current age. She specifically highlighted the festival’s alignment with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as with discussions of the upcoming Human Rights Bill in Scotland.

In addition to these events, the SISF will continue its community-centric initiative: The ‘Big Scottish Story Ripple’. This program connects local storytellers with schools and community groups throughout Scotland, aiming to not only promote storytelling as an art form but also to encourage more acts of kindness. Last year, this initiative hosted over 120 sessions, involving 41 different storytellers and more than 3,200 participants who shared over 700 stories.

As the event grows nearer, attendees can anticipate The Scottish International Storytelling Festival will provide a diverse array of events, offering insights into both historical and contemporary narratives.

Illustration: Sarah Knight

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