The nights are getting longer, the weather is cooling down and so the Scottish International Storytelling Festival begins, as we gather round the fire and share a story or a song. Harvest season can often surprise us with beautiful sunshine and vibrant colours, what better time to spend your weekends with the family, exploring enchanted gardens, embarking on bone-chilling walking tours, returning to the stories of your childhood and dressing up for Halloween. Spanning over two weekends, the SISF is collaborating with a vast variety of organisations to keep growing the love for stories and to make this autumn unforgettable for you and your loved ones.
Our first festival weekend kicks off with Mercat Tours’ Gory Stories city walk, serving up a blood-soaked feast of supernatural tales for young and old that’ll make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. If you’re too much of a scaredy-cat, you can join our international storytellers in the Royal Botanic Garden’s, who’ll wrap you up safely in magical tales.
Can you still remember your favourite story when you were little, the one you wanted to listen to on repeat, or the first book that you were given for Christmas? The Museum of Childhood is hosting the mesmerising exhibition Growing up with Books (Free, 10am – 5pm until 1 Dec), comprising an astonishing collection of 15,000 books, donated over many years, ranging from recent classics like Peter Pan and Robinson Crusoe, to older works including a book from 1725 connected to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener, said:
‘This display celebrates that one childhood activity that never gets old – the joy of a good book. A love of reading is developed at a young age and travels with you, and these books have clearly been treasured and on a few journeys!‘
Together, kids and parents can experience the nursery rhymes of their grandparents and discover some of the moving inscriptions and personal messages inside the books, along with old bus tickets and dried flowers, drawing attention to the unique story each book tells us.
Our second festival weekend honours the Celtic pagan tradition of Halloween, as the darker half of the year begins and creatures from the other world start walking amongst the living, according to old beliefs.
SISF offers families the opportunity to reconnect with our old Celtic traditions in a fun and playful way, inviting you to enter the Spooky Castle, join our Family Samhuinn, expertly hosted by the wonderfully enthusiastic experts from the Beltane Fire Society or march along with the Guisers Parade through Edinburgh’s Old Town, with dressing up encouraged across these family events!
Dive into our spooktacular weekend events listings and indulge in our festival entertainment.
Gory Stories | Sat 20 & Sun 21 Oct | Departs from Mercat Cross beside St Giles Cathedral | 11am (1hr 15) | £13 – £8 | Ages 5+
All kids love growing up with fascinating stories and Mercat Tours present an Old Town jaunt especially for them! Hear true tales of Edinburgh crime, witches and ghosts in the places where they really happened. You’ll finish your excursion beneath the streets in the exclusive Blair Street Underground Vaults, once frequented by some of Edinburgh’s less appealing characters. And possibly still is…
Once Upon a Book | Sat 20 Oct | Scottish Storytelling Centre & Museum of Childhood | 1.30pm (3hrs) | Free (ticketed) | Ages 3+
Old books come back to life as storytellers guide you through the world of children’s literature in a vibrant afternoon of stories at the Storytelling Centre and Museum of Childhood.
Inspired by the Museum’s exhibition Growing Up With Books, this event features an array of Scottish storytellers, including Sylvia Troon, Sheila Kinninmonth, Ailie Finlay, Janis Mackay and Beth Cross and sessions for different age ranges.
See event page for session details.
Enchanted Garden – Growing Stories, Growing Trees | Sun 21 Oct | Royal Botanic Garden | 1pm (3hrs) | Free, drop in | Family Event
Join Scottish and international storytellers at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and treat yourself with a relaxed afternoon of stories for all ages. Meet at the Botanic Cottage and find the cosy spots where stories are shared, or let storytellers take you on story journeys into the beautiful surroundings, where trees start to glow with warm Autumn colours.
This event includes the special storytelling session, Re-Storying the Earth, with Alette Willis and Allison Galbraith.
Family Samhuinn | Sat 27 Oct | Scottish Storytelling Centre | 12pm(3hrs) | £5 | Children 3-12
Come celebrate the Celtic festival of Samhuinn, a time where the veil between the land of the living and the departed is at its thinnest. Enjoy a day of stories, games and songs for the whole family, centred around the changes of the seasons.
Starbank Park Halloween Party | Sat 27 Oct | Starbank Park | 3pm (2hrs) | By donation (£3) | Children 3-10
Come along and hear some spooky gothic tales at Scarebank! Park’s Halloween Party. Come in full costume and enjoy an afternoon of treats and fun activities next to an old creepy Mansion and watch out for our ghost sailor by the sea! Hosted by Friends of Starbank Park.
The Spooky Castle | Sun 28 Oct | Lauriston Castle | 10am (3hrs) | £7 | Family Event
Spend a morning exploring this spooktacular Castle at Halloween.
Be brave and dabble in terrifying family activities! Spend some time in the creepy old woods, search for clues with ghouls and make terrifying Halloween treats in the historical kitchen.
Lauriston Castle is delighted to be joined this year by new partners Edinburgh Horror Festival. Remember to come in full fancy dress!
Guisers Galore | Sun 28 Oct | Scottish Storytelling Centre | 1.30pm (2hrs 30) | Free (ticketed) | 5 +
What’s Guising? Come along and find out!
Learn a song, a poem and a dance for real Halloween guising, then follow the Old Town Guisers Parade or prepare for guising in your local area.
Rehearsals at the Scottish Storytelling Centre from 1.30pm and then performances at the Museum of Edinburgh at 3pm & 3.30pm.
Bring your own costume or mask. Not suitable for children under 5. All children must be accompanied.
Growing Stories at Bridgend | Sun 28 Oct | Bridgend Farmhouse | 2pm (2hrs) | Free (ticketed)
Learn to ‘grow’ and share stories of plants, trees and food with children, within a peaceful, historic, plant-filled haven in South Edinburgh.
With storyteller Tim Porteus, expert in history, family and community learning. Share in bonfire tales and tasty, locally-grown treats! Led by Place, Work & Folk Oral History Project in partnership with Bridgend Growing Communities.
For full SISF information visit www.sisf.org.uk and browse our programme of magical events.
Featured Image: Ancient Tales at Family Samhuinn 2017 | Photography Vince Graham