15 Things I Learned at TradFest

Our Festival Intern and Photographer Adriana-Ioana Cosma, summarized her 2018 TradFest experience for us, sharing some of her favourite moments and cultural insights!  

1. I learned that there isn’t only one type of bagpipes, and that they can be far more interesting than the ones I hear so often on Princes Street, while seeing Brighde Chaimbeul play her smallpipes like a rockstar. I “fangirled” internally for her nonchalance and her ancient eyes. On the same note, I think I also learned how to say her name.

2. I learned that I can be as mesmerized by folk fiddle playing as I can be by a classical violin thanks to Ryan Young, whose passion and talent made him my only fiddler crush in the world (so far, but either way, he will hold a special place in my heart).

3. I learned Gaelic Song is not just any song with Gaelic lyrics, but a way of singing, from Christine Primrose and SIAN. This language sounds magical, it sounds like a spoken secret, and I am so happy to see active effort to keep it alive and strong.

4. I learned it is possible to tell a story in two languages at the same time and still have the audience under a spell, from Finnish Rune singer and storyteller, Anna-Maria Toivonen and Highland Perthshire storyteller, Claire Hewitt. If anyone had any doubt that storytelling is a real profession, they should see these two and realize the level of skill and experience it takes.

5. I learned that there are new ways to do old things from This is How We Fly, even if some may think that we’ve run out of ideas. They have added a new perspective to three established instruments and created a fourth: feet.

6. I learned songs children in Britain used to sing in playgrounds, and that people here are very passionate about Bridies. Being from a different country, it is difficult for me to understand British nostalgia, but events like Aspects of Youth can open a window into that side of social history for me. They also taught me that “ye cannae shove yer Granny aff a bus”, which I didn’t know before.

7. I learned I still do not know how to tell left from right during a Nathaniel Gow Quadrilles Workshop on International Dance Day, but I also learned I can overcome that and enjoy a party like a 19th century Scot!

8. I learned that when you say ceilidh you don’t automatically mean a type of dance, but a gathering of a community who can share song, dance and storytelling.

9. I learned that Edinburgh’s grey weather and dramatic winds are perfect for walking around and listening to poetry. If the poems are as dramatic as the Jacobite rhymes that I experienced with Ken Cockburn, it fits even better.

10. I learned you can live in whatever period you please from ‘musical contortionists’ Sheesham and Lotus & ‘Son. I also discovered a lot of new instruments, some of which are: mouth trumpets, a mini whiskey bottle, a turkey baster, slaps applied to self, and let’s not forget the jaw harp (I always wanted to know where that comical sound came from) and the contrabass harmoniphonium.

photo credit: Colin Hattersley

11. I learned that people from very different backgrounds can come together and find a common point, then make art together. The world seems to pull towards division, but A New Conversation made me understand that one can pull back and grow closer together instead!

12. I learned Cinderella can be a much more complicated family story and that hamsters don’t mind incest from KIN: Fortune, Feuds and the Family Tree.

13. I learned I might consider a full-time career as a mummer in the May Day Parade, because I had a lot of fun marching alongside them, carrying flowers, and being enveloped in the feeling of the beginning of summer.

14. I learned that watching kids play is one of the joys of life from the people at Family Beltane, and that I would love to be a child again, to lose the self consciousness one gains from growing up.

15. I learned that Robin Hood is a little bit of a local legend, but not so local, since there’s Robin Hoods all over the place, from Robin Hood: Riot, Rant and Rebellion.

Finally, above all, I learned that if tradition and folklore are shared with everyone, they grow, they teach, they give joy and they transform. It is a pity that TradFest, a festival about sharing and bringing people together, is ending for good.

The world needs more of this, or at least the same amount, but definitely not less. 

Adriana-Ioana Cosma
May 2018