Auld Lang Syne

Review by Wangxiu Cheng and Yan Hong

We welcome back student teacher-in-residence Wangxiu Cheng for her second-term residency 30 January–10 March 2023 with us at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. Wangxiu is an award-winning graduate of the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. She is currently undertaking her MSc studies in Dance Science and Education at the University of Edinburgh. Following a stellar start of her residency at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland in the autumn of 2022, this time Wangxiu is joined by fellow MSc student Yan Hong under the curatorial mentorship of Iliyana Nedkova.

This is Wangxiu’s third newly commissioned review specifically for Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, following Cosmic Dance and Meditarraneo, this time featuring a contribution by Yan.


What’s to be remembered? What’s to be forgotten? What’s to let go?

These are the words opening Mairi Campbell‘s solo show Auld Lang Syne which I caught on the last stop of its tour across Scotland at my favourite Scottish Storytelling Centre – the home of Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. I was pleased to return to the Centre on the first day of my second-term residency for a night of contentment and elation which I shared with a full house of theatre aficionados, including my fellow resident dance artist Yan Hong, my mentor Iliyana Nedkova and Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland Board members Wendy Timmons, Tony Chen and Bernie Hewitt.

Through the integration of live music, animation and movement, Campbell delves into the depths of the Auld Lang Syne song, uncovering the hidden mysteries and tales within it. Campbell’s dynamic approach brings the song to life, illuminating the stories and emotions it contains, and creating a truly immersive experience for the audience.

The iconic Scottish song Auld Lang Syne is not only a traditional anthem that is widely played around the world, but also one that has been given new vitality through the creative interpretation of Campbell since 2018. The song’s popularity and reach are a testament to its enduring appeal and timelessness. The new presentation of the song by Campbell has reinvigorated it and has allowed it to be enjoyed by a new generation of listeners. When all the audience present joined in for a sing-along in English and Scots, I realised why this song has been loved by so many people for centuries. This was truly one of the most exciting new sound experiences in Scotland for me!

On the way home I kept thinking about Campbell’s stories of love and abandonment, pondering about the reasons traditional music is still loved and appreciated even after it has been modernized or reinterpreted. Probably, it is due to its appeal to our empathy. Maybe, it is the nostalgia and longing that the music and sound awaken in the audience. Perhaps because, throughout Campbell’s stories, viewers are also transported to different places and times, constantly being inspired with feelings of awe, wonder and humour.

Again, I marvel at the cultural significance of trad music and the great artists who have perpetuated and innovated within it. It is through the efforts of artists like Campbell that the art form is continually infused with energy, enabling some works to transcend time and cultural boundaries, making them a popular and beloved form of art.

Auld Lang Syne has also inspired me to consider revitalising my practice in the field of dance education through incorporating music into dance training so that students could develop a sense of rhythm and phrasing. Integrating the music into the movements delicately will make the dance more attractive.

In addition, we can collaborate with musicians developing students’ ability to improvise. Through music and dance, educators can help students become more expressive and creative artistic participants.

Moreover, teachers can examine how music and movement work together, leading students to a deeper understanding of the connections between the two art forms and how they can be used to create powerful and moving performances.

In these ways, they can bring a more holistic approach to music and dance education and ultimately produce more accomplished, well-rounded dancers.

In the words of Yan Hong:

“What I liked most was that as a storyteller Mairi Campbell wasn’t just giving voice to tales old and new, that as a musician she wasn’t just using music to perform them. It was the combination of storytelling and physical movement, as well as music, that made Auld Lang Syne a tender and powerful confession of memory and friendship. From my perspective as a dancer, I couldn’t help but think about the relationship between dance and language, dance and music throughout the show.

Historically, the combination of music and language with dance which we once deplored as secondary to the early Italian ballets, has since developed into something that we are proud of because it adds a more three-dimensional effect to the performance. In this production Campbell’s simple yet infectious dance movements create the scenes of the story, while the rich lighting design facilitates the transitions, giving us the magical feeling of watching an one-act play.

Auld Lang Syne transcends the nostalgia for old times. It is an engraving of collective memories, as it is often played and danced to, marking the end of an event, an year or a day, even a graduation ceremony as it is in China. So, it carries the memories of a lot of people evoking different emotions from raw sadness to calm immersion in deep time.”


Images by Wangxiu Cheng. Editorial support by Iliyana Nedkova





Pomegranates 2023


Book your Pomegranates 2023 festival tickets on Pay What You Can basis through the Scottish Storytelling Centre Box Office in person or online by clicking the BOOK NOW link. Please note that the suggested donation of £15 per day will be reinvested in next year’s festival!


We are delighted to announce the return of our Pomegranates festival – sowing the seeds of international traditional dance across Edinburgh this spring. Initiated and curated by the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, the annual festival will once again mark UNESCO’s International Dance Day on 29 April 2023. The second iteration of our festival will spread across not only two but three days – 28-30 April 2023. Again, it will be hosted by both the Scottish Storytelling Centre and St. Leonard’s Dance Studio at the University of Edinburgh.

Once again, Pomegranates will form part of Edinburgh Tradfest – a festival of longer tap roots in the Edinburgh Folk Festival, launched by TRACS in 2013, then curated by Soundhouse in collaboration with Transgressive North since 2019 and with Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland since 2022.

For this year’s Pomegranates, we will also join our efforts and share the spaces of Scottish Storytelling Centre with the second North Atlantic Song Convention which was established in 2020 to celebrate and support the rich folksong traditions of all cultures that have borders with or access to the North Atlantic Ocean.

Just like our inaugural festival, Pomegranates 2023 will kick off with an intensive day packed with 12 professional development world dance workshops led by creative immigrants based in Scotland, accompanied by our trad musicians and artists-in-residence.

Works-in-progress by Gabriel Schmitz. Image courtesy the artist

We are pleased to confirm the newly-commissioned festival contribution of our 2023 resident artists – the performance poet and broadcaster of Scottish origin Ian McMillan, the tradiotional musician and composer Jonathan Bews, as well as the German visual artist and Edinburgh College of Art alumnus Gabriel Schmitz.

Opening ahead of Pomegranates 2023, Duets is Gabriel’s first solo exhibition in Scotland which we curated specifically for the Scottish Storytelling Court. This solo show will run 26 March–30 April 2023 and feature a selection of the artist’s dance drawings, dance cutouts, dance paintings and dance videos, including from his participation in the accompanying programme at 59th Venice Biennale 2022. Duets will offer opportunities to experience Gabriel’s life drawing duets with dance artists during the three days of the Pomegranates 2023 festival. Additionally, Gabriel will revisit his Alma Mater to lead a special dance and drawing masterclass with Edinburgh College of Art undergraduate students.

To Begin the Dance Once More Teaser Screenshot

Pomegranates 2023 will also bring the world premiere of our new short film To Begin the Dance Once More on the big theatre screen of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. What is more, inspired by our short dance film, we will stage Dances with Ouds and Fiddles – a brand-new live show for three dancers, a storyteller, an oud and a fiddle with new music composed, arranged and performed live by Jonathan Bews another new addition to this year’s festival.

The festival finale will see newly-commissioned poems and drawings by our resident artists Ian McMillan and Gabriel Schmitz come alive as part of our Pomegranates Promenade show. The Promenade will feature at least 12 dancers fusing fun folk dance with funky hip hop rhythms and rhymes. The Promenade’s choreographer Kemono L Riot, an esteemed hip hop artist and dancer, will MC the show under the live accompaniment of Nemo Ganguli, ‘Young Drummer of The Year’ Finalist 2022, before DJing the after party with a special playlist bound to get everybody on the dance floor.

And if that isn’t colourful enough, festival guests will have another go at dancing themselves as part of our Pomegranates 2023 Ceilidh with Terrific Trouble Ceilidh Band and dance caller extraordinaire Pia Walker as they grab their final chance to experience our exhibition Duets.

In the meantime, enjoy the highlights of Pomegranates 2022, including a short documentary, and check the draft schedule of Pomegranates 2023 below:

Pomegranates 2023 Day 1

Friday, 28 April 2023 at St. Leonard’s Dance Studio at the University of Edinburgh

0830-0900          Welcome and Registration
0900-0930          World Dance Workshop 1
0930-1000          World Dance Workshop 2
1000-1030          World Dance Workshop 3
1030-1100           Break/Networking
1100-1130           World Dance Workshop 4
1130-1200           World Dance Workshop 5
1200-1230            World Dance Workshop 6
1230-1330            Lunch/Networking
1330-1400            World Dance Workshop 7
1400-1430            World Dance Workshop 8
1430-1500            World Dance Workshop 9
1500-1530            Break/Networking
1530-1600            World Dance Workshop 10
1600-1630            World Dance Workshop 11
1630-1700            World Dance Workshop 12
1900-2000 Triple bill live show, including Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion at the Scottish Storytelling Centre followed by Q&A with creative teams and a preview of Gabriel Schmitz solo exhibition


Pomegranates 2023 Day 2

Saturday, 29 April 2023 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre
1900-2030 Pomegranates 2023 Promenade live show with MC Kemono L Riot + Q&A with Gabriel Schmitz and other creatives tba
2030-2200 After party with DJ Kemono L Riot and preview of Gabriel Schmitz solo exhibition


Pomegranates 2023 Day 3

Sunday, 30 April 2023 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre
1800-1930 Dances with Ouds and Fiddles live show followed by To Begin the Dance Once More world premiere screening + Q&A with creative team
1930-2100 Ceilidh dancing open to all with Terrific Trouble Ceilidh Band and preview of Gabriel Schmitz solo exhibition



Pomegranates 2022 festival poster image courtesy of Zeynep Aciktepe at unsplash 

Steve Byrne Appointed As New Director of TRACS

TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) is delighted to announce that they have appointed Steve Byrne as their new Director. A noted performer, researcher, folklorist and community activist, Steve Byrne will take up his appointment from March 2023, continuing the work of TRACS and its three forums for traditional music, storytelling, and traditional dance; and developing and showcasing Scotland’s rich cultural heritage.

Born in Arbroath and educated at Arbroath High School, Steve Byrne trained at the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University, before embarking on a distinguished creative career. As a founding member of Scottish folk band Malinky, Byrne toured widely, while also contributing to the digitisation of vital early recordings of Scottish music and storytelling.

From early in his career Steve has been a strong advocate for community use of folk culture as a resource for local education, development and wellbeing. He is the author of two key strategic documents for the folk arts in Scotland: Dig Where We Stand (2015) commissioned by TRACS, and Mapping Intangible Heritage in Scotland (2021) commissioned by a number of public bodies, including Creative Scotland, Museums and Galleries Scotland, and Historic Environment Scotland.

A savvy communicator, Byrne also led the effort to save poet, songwriter and political activist Hamish Henderson’s letters and papers, readying them for transfer to a public collection. More recently, he crowdfunded to buy the bouzouki which Roy Williamson played in The Corries’ first version of Flower of Scotland, gifting it to the St Cecilia’s Hall collection of historic instruments.

Steve Byrne’s previous organisational roles include Traditional Arts Officer at Edinburgh City Council, Development Worker for almost a decade at the Scots Music Group, and Chair of the Traditional Music Forum. More recently he has been involved in the TRACS’ People’s Parish project in the Bainsford & Langlees area of Falkirk. This Scotland-wide project involving all of Scotland’s 871 parishes supports communities to discover and rediscover a ‘sense of place’ for present and future generations through stories, traditions, and heritage history.

TRACS was founded in 2011 after extensive research and consultation led by the Scottish Government’s Traditional Arts Working Group. Its purpose is to advocate for traditional arts and to make music, storytelling and dance inclusive and accessible aspects of everyday life across Scotland. Since its inception TRACS has been based at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, with which it works in close partnership on major ventures such as The Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

For the last decade TRACS has been led jointly by David Francis and Donald Smith. Though standing down from their shared leadership role, both will continue to actively support forums and projects within TRACS.

New Director of TRACS, Steve Byrne said:

“I am absolutely delighted to be appointed to lead an organisation that I consider to be key to the future of traditional arts in Scotland.  I am looking forward to working with the TRACS team and communities across the country in celebrating our local cultures in all their vibrant forms, hybrids and languages, and sharing Scotland’s living traditions with the world.”

Andrew Bachell, Chair of TRACS, who led the recruitment process, commented:

“In Steve Byrne, TRACS has found a new Director who reflects the spread and depth of talent in Scotland’s traditional arts. His appointment is a confident step towards the tough challenges that cultural organisations face over the next two years.”

Former Directors David Francis and Donald Smith said:

“We are delighted to be handing on the leadership baton to Steve Byrne. He is an outstanding creative, an excellent communicator, and committed to nurturing folk culture from the roots. His appointment is a boost to the vital role traditional arts and culture play in our society, past, present and future.”


Directory of Musicians Spotify Playlist #20 – Robert Burns Special

Directory of Musicians Spotify Playlist #20 – Robert Burns Special

This January we have a special playlist celebrating the songs of Robert Burns with tracks by Robyn Stapleton, Dougie MacLean, Karen Matheson, North Sea Gas, Claire Hastings, Ivan Drever, Eddi Reader, The Tannahill Weavers, Ewan MacColl, and Mairi Campbell & David Francis.




Review by Iliyana Nedkova
Did you know that we launched @TradDanceScot recommends – our popular Twitter thread in the summer 2022. We hand-picked over a dozen of shows from across all corners of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their unexpected mix of trad and contemporary dance!

Strip off the grey suit
Don a riotous headdress
Open your heart
Dance for joy
A rhythmic gymnast no more
A box-busting mover and shaker instead
A piece on the chess board of life with
A matching shirt and stage
Roll out the dance floor of childhood
Reveal the stretch marks on body and soul
Play the air guitar but with a piercing needle
Draw new lines to face and floor
Dance is a migratory bird
Flying high and low
Migrating between
north and soul
east and rest
Catch 40/40 on tour, including on 7 Feb in Edinburgh and 10-11 Feb in Glasgow. Further details:
Images by Beth Chalmers courtesy of Two Destination Language



Congolese Traditional Dance

Congratulations to Kalubi Mukengela–Jacoby of Indigo Dance Company who, following our open call, was selected for the new Traditional Dance Residency through the ongoing partnership between the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and Dance Base – Scotland’s national centre for dance. Kalubi’s residency will take place at our partner’s beautiful studios in Edinburgh this spring, 13–17 March 2023.

Congraturlations, also to the dance artists Charlotte McLean, Kae Sakurai, Eilidh Ellery and Oxana Banshikova who secured a mentorship session from either Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland or Dance Base.

Kalubi is planning to collaborate with drummer Nemo Ganguli and use this residency as a starting point to research, codify and develop the traditional Luba and Kuba dances of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the first exploration of its kind of these Congolese traditional dances which are in danger of being forgotten. Tradition changes with time and Kalubi is interested in exploring how traditional moves can remain relevant nowadays.

What is African contemporary dance and what does it look like? What are the steps, the rhythms and the meanings of ancestral movements passed on from generation to generations to ultimately make their way into the 21st century?

Staged dance of a Kuba masquerader, Nsheng, Belgian Congo (1947) – silver gelatin print by Eliot Elisofon (1911-1973). Image courtesy of Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Kalubi has been dancing, singing and acting since she was three years old and started with traditional Luba dance. She was born and grew up in Belgium and moved to Scotland to train at the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance. She received her Master’s Degree in Dance Science and Education from the University of Edinburgh. Kalubi believes that amazing things can come out of the cross over between different cultures.


Can’t wait to join us for Kalubi’s residency sharing at Dance Base?

Book you free space now: Friday 17 March 2023, 3-4pm



C is for Ceilidh

We are delighted to be one of the partners for C is for Ceilidh Club – a new after-school club running at Edinburgh’s Abbeyhill Primary School. It is led by traditional dance artist-in-residence Caroline Brockbank as part of the curated artist-in-residence programme at the school.

The first block of sessions will run weekly at the school’s Assembly Hall 17 January–28 March 2023 (except 14 February 2023) – free and open to all Primary 1, Primary 2 and Primary 3 pupils and their guardians. Vegan refreshments will be provided to keep everyone warm and motivated, as well as help with the cost-of-living crisis.

In April–June 2023 the weekly sessions will open to the rest of the school community from – Primary 4–7 pupils and their guardians. The residency will be celebrated with a ceilidh dance for all as part of the Garden pARTy planned for 15 September 2023 as part of 18th annual edition of the Colony of Artists community festival.

C is for Ceilidh Club has been made possible following the successful Abbeyhill Parent Council grant application to Tasgadh – a fund devolved from Creative Scotland and managed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal. The fund is designed to provide support for traditional artists and organisations to create, perform, tour and showcase work.

The Tasgadh award will also allow us to build on the success of our initial collaboration with the curated artists-in-residence programme at the school. We enabled trad dance artists and trad musicians, including Caroline Brockbank of CeilidhKids and Bernie Hewitt of Ceilidh Craic, to deliver two free outdoor ceilidh events so far. The first, held on the school playground as part of Colony of Artists Garden pARTy 2022 and the second, on the Parade Ground of Holyrood Park as part of Colony of Artists festival 2021 due to the Covid-related closure of all schools to visitors.

The residency will allow us to explore the long-lasting mental/physical health and well-being benefits of Scottish Country dancing for all involved. We intend to secure ethical approval and conduct this research with colleagues from our project partner the University of Edinburgh through observation and surveys. This research aspires to inform future planning of social dance sessions towards a clearer understanding of the bio-psycho-social impact of dancing together.

The C is for Ceilidh sessions will be inclusive to all generations and abilities utilising Caroline’s artistic experience in devising and leading sessions for children with special needs, which she most recently shared in the Ceilidh and Autism event now available as one of our free online resource here.

The Tasgadh award towards C is for Ceilidh project will enable us to continue playing an important role in A is for Abbeyhill Artists curated artists-in-residence programme at Abbeyhill Primary School. The programme aims to ensure that all children are entitled to quality cultural learning and meaningful access to traditional and contemporary visual and performing arts. Curated by Iliyana Nedkova, the residency programme has been integrated in the Curriculum for Excellence at the school since 2013. For the last 10 years A is for Abbeyhill Artists has brought over 50 resident artists to the school supported by over 30 project partners and funders.


Images from Ceilidh for All led by Caroline Brockbank (pictured in the CeilidhKids T-shirt holding the microphone) and Bernie Hewitt, accordion (pictured) as part of Colony of Artists Garden pARTy on 16 September 2022 at Abbeyhill Primary School playground. See some short videos from the Ceilidh for All here and here. All images and videos by the school’s photographer-of-residence Scibor Lipinski.


Illustrated Freelancer’s Guide

“We are encouraged to become… microentrepreneurs of the self, acting as if we are our own, precarious, freelance microenterprises in a context in which we are being steadily deprived of employment rights, public services and welfare support.”

Gary Hall in “The Uberfication of the University”

This is the fitting preface of The Illustrated Freelancer’s Guide – a practical introduction to legal rights, best practices and professional troubleshooting for creative workers in Scotland, written by Heather Parry and illustrated by Maria Stoian. Use this resource to advocate for yourself, for others, and to work out how we can do things better, and how we can make change happen.

Download The Illustrated Freelancer Guide – free and available from our growing resources.

In addition, follow the updated Twitter thread by Heather Parry if you are freelance traditional arts practitioner in Scotland facing self-assessment tax return.


New Interactive, Open-access Website Opens Up a Magical Gateway to Scotland’s Diverse Oral Storytelling Traditions

Map of Stories ( is a unique, multimedia website developed as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories, which allows audiences across Scotland and beyond to explore the rich diversity of Scotland’s oral storytelling traditions.

The website is completely open-access and free to use, and features a literal map of Scotland, onto which have been placed a series of newly-commissioned recordings for audiences to explore featuring some of the ancient myths, local histories, contemporary yarns and community folk tales that comprise Scotland’s dynamic, living culture of oral storytelling.

The website is produced by Edinburgh-based artistic collective Transgressive North in partnership with TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and Rectangle Design, and is supported Edinburgh Futures Institute (University of Edinburgh) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UKRI).

The website currently features 76 recordings (62 filmed recordings created specially for the website, and 14 audio-only recordings specifically selected from the Tobar an Dualchais collection), with more recordings to follow in 2023.

The map explores the deep connection between Scotland’s oral storytelling traditions and the specific landscapes, communities and locations across the country from which they emerge. Audiences can choose whether to view recordings pegged to the locations in which each storyteller is based, or – alternatively – where each story is said to have taken place, whether this is the sinister mermaid who haunted Knockdolian castle, the mischievous fairies of Tomnahurich in Inverness, or the final hours of Rob Roy McGregor in Balqhuidder.

Whilst claiming neither to be exhaustive nor complete, the magical selection of stories featured on Map of Stories draws from the rich diversity of Scotland’s oral storytelling traditions across the country – from Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, all the way down to the Scottish Borders – and includes stories in Gaelic (with English language subtitles), Scots and Doric; stories from Scotland’s traveller and outer island communities; as well as stories from the increasingly diverse group of heritages – from India, Kenya, Iran, England and Wales – that comprise Scotland as a 21st-century, cosmopolitan nation.

Map of Stories will launch officially at the end Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, a rich year of cultural activity across Scotland, which has seen organisations and communities nationwide collaborating to showcase the very best of Scotland’s storytelling. In particular, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival enjoyed a highly successful 2022 edition, with a record 240 events across Scotland. While community events are continuing into December, indications are that the Festival has recovered to 2019 levels of attendance.

To celebrate and complement the launch of the Map of Stories site, a series of 5 specially curated and produced ‘film ceilidh’ events, supported by EventScotland as part of the Year of Stories 2022, will be made available to stream. Performed at the 2022 Scottish International Storytelling Festival, and featuring storytellers and stories from the site, as well as newly commissioned film footage from award-winning Scottish filmmaker Jamie Chambers, these five pre-recorded events premiere on Friday 16th December at the following link:

Film Ceilidh Streaming

Full details of each of the five events is below.

Map of Stories represents a rich and lasting legacy for Scotland’s Year of Stories, opening up new access for audiences both at home and abroad to explore the diversity of Scotland’s oral storytelling traditions.

Listing information for live Map of Stories Film Ceilidhs recordings from SISF that will be available to stream

Map of Stories Film Ceilidh: Galloway

Led by storyteller and poet Tom Pow, with music from Wendy Stewart.

Map of Stories Film Ceilidh: North-East

Led by storytellers Grace Banks and Jackie Ross, and featuring footage of Scots traveller Tony Robertson as part of a celebration of Tony’s father, Stanley Robertson, and his connection to the Old Road at Lumphanan.

Map of Stories Film Ceilidh: Orkney

Led by Orcadian storyteller Tom Muir, and featuring the landscapes of Deerness.

Map of Stories Film Ceilidh: Outer Hebrides

Led by Hebridean storyteller and poet Ian Stephen with music from Edinburgh-based piper Allan MacDonald, and featuring footage of the Gaelic bard Norman Maclean

Map of Stories Film Ceilidh: Perthshire

Led by Scottish traveller singer and storyteller Jess Smith, and featuring footage of the great Scottish traveller storyteller Sheila Stewart MBE.