Discover a Festival of Dreams

Festival of Dreams

Now in its 27th year, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival returns from 21 – 31 October 2016 with another vibrant programme of live storytelling, workshops, talks and family shows, sending stories spilling out from the festival hub at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and across the capital.

Taking Festival of Dreams as its theme, this year’s programme focuses on the Spanish-speaking world, with guests from Spain, Central and South America spinning fantastic tales and sharing colourful visions of the future.

Other guests hail from Finland, Jamaica, Brazil and across Scotland, telling tales old and new, little-known and well-loved.

The Festival on Tour programme sees both local and international performers take their stories on the road, sharing tales from Oban to Orkney, Ayr to Aberdeen.

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is looking forward to the busy programme of 72 events in Edinburgh and 41 events in Festival on Tour, plus opportunities for communities and groups to get involved with the #DaretoDream Campaign.

Donald states:
Without dream lives, we are pale shadows of ourselves. This year’s Storytelling Festival nourishes our dreams, personally and collectively, tracing them in our hearts, our stories, our communities, on maps of the imagination, and in the skies above. It’s like dreaming together.

Download the programme   Browse Events Online

From Scotland to South America – and beyond

From colourful Cuban towns to Chilean mountains, Colombian beaches to Peruvian villages, hear stories to transport you around the Spanish-speaking world – mixed in, as always, with celebrations of Scotland’s tales and traditions.

Just a few highlights of the vibrant programme include From the Scottish Borders to South America, in which Mary Kenny and Daniel Hernández share stories of the Border shepherds and sheep farmers who sought a new life in South America during the 19th century, and Stories from Mexico and Panama, where Rubén Corbett explores his double cultural background and treats us to little-known tales from both nations.

Other guests hail from Finland, Jamaica, Brazil and across the United Kingdom. Each evening, unwind at the Open Hearth, a relaxed, traditional gathering in the Centre’s Netherbow Theatre, where Scottish and international storytellers come together to trade tales, providing the perfect end to your day.

Bilingual performances and BSL

The Festival always encourages the use of the story’s mother tongue and this year’s programme will feature various bilingual performances, allowing both Spanish- and English-speaking audiences to delve into stories from across the Hispanic world. Spanish storyteller Laura Escuela will support international guests from Peru, Argentina and Mexico, alternating their original stories with English translations.

The winning six storytelling entries from the Festival’s ghost story competition, in association with the National Library of Scotland, will also be BSL interpreted on the final day of the Festival, provided byRachel Amey and Louise Holden.

Stars & Gardens

SISF sends stories radiating throughout Edinburgh, with a wealth of tales gathering in the city’s green and outdoor spaces. This year we’ll celebrate Autumn Dreams with a Family Day at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, go in search of faerie folk at the Lochend Secret Garden, explore plant power and folklore at the Dr Neil’s Garden in Duddingston, and make beastie bed boxes at Leith Community Croft.

We’ll also be looking to the skies in Star Tales, with storyteller Linda Williamson and harpist Mio Shapley – accompanied by an astronomer – exploring the observable facts and mysterious fictions of star lore at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, before joining Edinburgh City of Literature on a Stars & Stories tour through Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Celebrating the Greats

2016 marks 400 years since the deaths of two of literature’s greatest talents: William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes. Storyteller Marion Kenny and her brother John Kenny will pay homage to the English Bard with an event on Macbeth on Sunday 30 October, while Spanish performers David & Monma introduce Don Quixote to families at a special event on Saturday 29.

Tributes will also be made to some of the Hispanic world’s most influential figures, from Frida Kahlo to a journey through the mind-opening fiction of Jorge Luis Borges in From Borges to Bugs, or discover the work of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the adventures of Don Roberto”, the Scottish politician who made his fortune as a cattle rancher in Argentina.

This year also marks 200 years since the creation of Frankenstein, which was conjured up by 18-year-old Mary Shelley in response to a writing challenge issued by Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati near Geneva. Six new ghost stories will be showcased at the National Library of Scotland on Monday 31 October as part of the Festival’s own call to the public to pen tales to terrify!

Family events

Spanning two weekends, the Festival offers a wealth of family fun and children’s events across the city, the majority of which are free to get involved with. Hear Scots stories from the Scots Scriever at the National Library of Scotland, get cosy with Bedtime Stories at the Museum of Childhood, or help design the future at the Dare to Dream Day at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, all on Saturday 22 October.

Halloween starts early with our Family Samhuinn, a brilliant afternoon of crafting, face painting, dancing and drumming on Saturday 29 October. The following day Guisers Galore gives you the chance to learn a poem, song or dance before heading off on the Guisers Parade around the Old Town, while on Halloween itself young storytellers share scary tales of their own creation with the help of Tim Porteus.

The Museum of Childhood hosts spooky activities, where kids can create their own glow-in-the-dark skeletons, while Lauriston Castle will be transformed into a haunted house – the perfect setting for scary stories. For older children, brave the Dreams and Nightmares tour around the Royal Mile with Mercat Tours to uncover closes and courtyards where dreams were made, and nightmares unfolded.


Each year, SISF encourages storytellers, teachers and educators to expand their horizons through fun, interactive workshops. This year’s development opportunities include the Connect through Storytelling series, which shows how storytelling intersects with other areas of our lives, such as community or education. David Campbell and award-winning musician Mairi Campbell will explore play through sound, movement and story in their Dream Workshop, while Spanish performers David & Monma reveal how to awaken your inner clown, revealing light, vulnerability and innocence.

Plus, the Education afternoon at the National Library of Scotland brings together storytellers, visual artists and creative practitioners which ties in with the Library’s current map exhibition, You Are Here.

Festival on Tour

In addition to a plethora of Edinburgh events, SISF spans across many regions of Scotland, with Scottish storytellers unearthing local myths and legends and our international guests transporting audiences across the globe through their captivating tales.

This year SISF coincides once again with the Orkney Storytelling Festival, the Inverness Storytelling Festival and the Portskerra Storytelling Festival, all of which will invite international and Scottish storytellers to share their tales amongst beautiful settings.

Amina Blackwood will bring a touch of the Caribbean to Dunoon and Oban with Stories of Jamaica, while Helensburgh, Campbeltown and Lochgilphead audiences will be enthralled by Stories of Colombia courtesy of Mauricio Patiño Acevedo.