Mental Health takes a Prominent Role in this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival Programme

It’s World Mental Health Day and with just a few days to go until the doors open for this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival (13-29 Oct) we’re taking the opportunity to highlight some of the events that are themed around mental health and wellbeing, as part of a packed programme of over 125 events. 

In Edinburgh, and all across Scotland as part of the festival’s Go Local programme of events, village halls, pubs, cafes, and public parks will be brought to life through the telling of stories connected to this year’s festival theme ‘Right To Be Human,’ which marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

This year, the festival is partnering with the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) on several of its events. SMHAF’s theme for 23 is ‘mental health is a universal human right’, chosen for World Mental Health Day (Tue 10 Oct), which also celebrates our ‘Right To Be Human’ and marks the 75th anniversary.

In partnership with SMHAF, the festival is presenting:

TALK. (Sat 7-Sun 29 Oct) an exhibition of portrait photographs by Edinburgh based photographer Graham Williams exploring men’s mental health.

Up the Middle Road: Stories from the Crichton Royal Asylum (Tue 17 Oct) which presents excerpts from Mike Bolam’s film of patients’ and staff’s telling first-hand, stories from Dumfries’ Crichton Royal Hospital which closed in early 2000s, and was known locally as ‘Up the Middle Road’. Audiences will also hear stories from Amanda Edmiston, a specialist in healing tales, and be invited to be part of a discussion on how stories can heal and dispel the stigma around mental health chaired by Dr Valentina Bold. The event was originally created for Scotland’s Year of Stories in 2022 and performed in the grounds of the hospital. 

SMHAF’s 10th annual Writing Awards (Sun 22 Oct) hosted by Scottish poet and playwright Hannah Lavery, the Edinburgh Makar, with a short live set from musician Jill Lorean and storytelling performance by Daniel Serridge. 

The Festival has also commissioned two new events for its ‘Right To Be Human’ series, related to mental health:

In the Hartwood (Mon 23 Oct in Edinburgh and Sat 28 Oct in Shotts) performed by storytellers Jane Mather and Heather Yule who pay tribute to all the patients and paupers who died in the now derelict Hartwood psychiatric hospital near Shotts, and are buried in the cemetery in its grounds. In Shotts this event will include a Q&A with Friends of Hartwood, a group of volunteers who tend to the graves, and whose interests are in removing the shame surrounding mental health, and uncovering the deep library of local knowledge and social history which is buried with the 1255 souls at Hartwood.

Fire from the Woods (Thu 26 Oct), exploring our right to know our ancestors’ stories and how many fathers are often unable to express their emotions and stay silent, leaving children to grow up without stories. Performed by storyteller Daiva Ivanauskaitė who curates Lithuania’s first storytelling festival, and regularly performs in her native land, her adopted home of Scotland, and internationally on stage and at community events; with music composed and performed Gaynor Barradell, this new work commissioned for the festival is directed by Scottish storyteller Lauren Bianchi and supported by The Village Storytelling Centre.

For those who can’t make it to the festival in person, there are six weekly episodes of the Festival’s first podcast Another Story  themed around our Right To Be Human available and the festival’s online workshop strand Global Lab. In week one of the festival  (16-19 Oct) Global Lab will look at our planet’s eco-system and how ecological passion drives twenty-first century storytelling, in association with Earth Charter International, and in Week Two (23-26 Oct) the focus returns to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the importance of valuing dignity, respect, equality and compassion in our lives.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs from Friday 13 – Sunday 29 October. This year’s opening event is Tales of Exile and Sanctuary with storyteller Gauri Raje developed whilst she worked at a immigration detention centre in Oxford. Tickets to each event in this year’s programme cost a maximum of £10, with family events costing just £5 per ticket. For those planning on attending multiple events, the Festival Pass (£20/£10)  offers discounted tickets to many live festival events, online and at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, as well as a discount at the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s bookshop and Haggis Box Café.

Full programme is available here or visit for more details.
@ScotStoryFest #RightToBeHuman