A Feast of Folklore at TradFest 2016

Folktales have inspired artists of all kinds for centuries, and continue to do so – in the past year alone, films based on the stories of Krampus and Snow White have reached the cinema, and weekly Twitter event #FolkloreThursday has become something of a phenomenon. This year’s TradFest features a number of storytelling events inspired by folklore and mythology, featuring Scottish and English tales as well as those from other parts of the world.

The Festival coincides with the traditional summer celebrations of Beltane, said to be the time of year when the web between the worlds is thinnest. On Saturday 30 April, the night of Beltane, storytellers David Campbell and Linda Williamson call up the “Little People” for Riders of the Sidhe, a ceilidh of story and song from the Celtic kingdoms.

The same evening, Dan Serridge and James Spence revisit one of the best-known folk characters of the Borders region, Thomas the Rhymer, a 13th century laird who was said to have spent seven years  with the Queen of Elfland and returned with the gift of prophecy but an inability to tell a lie. The storytellers, who hail from either side of the border, interweave their own versions of Thomas’ story, each complemented by music from the excellent Lori Watson and Brian James.

On Sunday 1 May, be transported around the globe with The Magical Fusion, a collection of tales from international storytellers Ana Lines, Mara Menzies and Claire McNicol. Hear the adventures of a broody Icelandic woman navigating the world of giant babies, or discover the mythological gods and goddesses of the Ifá (West Africa), Candomblé (Brazil) and Santería (Caribbean) faiths.

From the Little Pigs to the Bears and their porridge, the ‘rule of three’ is a staple of folk and fairy tales. On Wednesday 4 May, another trio of talented women – storyteller Beverley Bryant, singer Aileen Carr and clarsach player Heather Yule – spin enchanting yarns from all over Scotland in When Shall We Three Meet Again. Beverley says:  

“We will be weaving a spell of story, song and music. The night will be filled with ghosts, witches, the sidhe, cruel sisters and more – even tales of the devil himself. Our audience can expect much light and shade, featuring some stories passed on by master storyteller Stanley Robertson, as well as traditional ballads and the haunting accompaniment of the clarsach.”

Also evoking the power of three is David Brown, who’ll regale us with a trio of Pictish Tales on Friday 6 May. The stories come from across Britain, telling of a fateful clash between Ecgfrith of Northumbria and Bridei of the Strathclyde Britons, a Pict’s post-mortem revenge on a Viking and an ill-fated expedition from Edinburgh to Catraeth as told by the bard, Aneirin.

TradFest Edinburgh Dùn Èideann takes place from 27 April – 8 May 2016, with more than 90 events around the capital. See all events here.