Beginning with St Andrew’s Day and running through to Burns Night, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, supported by Scotland’s Winter Festivals event fund, entertains across the colder months by showcasing how Scotland’s traditions can bring people together, home and away, in cross-generational celebration.
Scotland’s patron saint, a saint shared by different European countries, was known for being strong, sociable and fair, encouraging people to share what they had with those in need. Celebrating St Andrew’s Day presents a powerful opportunity for Scots to keep the spirit of St Andrew alive, by coming together and helping others within their community.
Storytelling Centre Programme Manager, Daniel Abercrombie says:
‘Storytelling, music, song and dance can play a vital role in promoting understanding between people of different cultures, nationalities and abilities, which makes this the perfect occasion to discover and take part in the traditional arts.
‘The Storytelling Centre’s St Andrew’s Day programme explores questions of belonging, intersections of cultures and shared traditions, in cooperation with numerous organisations and the international cultural awareness movement Fair Saturday.’
Rivers of our Being
This specially curated St Andrew’s Day event is a celebration of the diversity of European musical tradition, in an original oratorio developed by the award-winning composer Prof. Valdis Muktupavels, performed by students of the Music Section, Newcastle University and conducted by Dr Simon McKerrell.
Taking its cue from the work of the famous Scottish ethnologist Hamish Henderson, who compared tradition to a “carrying stream”, ‘Rivers of Our Being’ is inspired by the rivers of Europe and the way they connect cultures across the continent. Emulating the flow of rivers carrying people and heritages from one area to another, the musical composition reflects the rich European diversities, influences and intersections, through a multicultural variety of instruments and styles.
‘I have always loved hearing songs from different people as they are so individually alive and offer insight into each culture they represent. With deep respect to their uniqueness and character, I have included them in this oratorio, so the listener should feel as if they are getting acquainted with new friends, who have something very special to share.’ (Prof. Valdis Muktupavels)
Part of the European Year of Culture, the concept of this event is developed in partnership between researchers from Heriot-Watt University, the Latvian Academy of Culture and Newcastle University and relates to study work for the Horizon 2020 project, CoHERE: Critical Heritages – Performing and Representing European Identities.
Dr Simon McKerrell of Newcastle University states:
‘We are delighted to perform the CoHere Oratorio at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh on St Andrews Day. The piece composed by Latvian ethnomusicologist Valdis Muktupavels features a full chamber ensemble and small choir of Newcastle University students with three professional musicians: John Kenny (trombone); Helen Beauchamp (Cello) and Imogen Bose-Ward (Fiddle). The music combines folk melodies and traditions from around Europe and brings them inventively together for a completely original and fascinating musical portrait of people’s relationships and cultural heritage across the major Southern, Eastern, Western and Northern rivers of Europe.’
First performed on Thursday 1 November at the University of Newcastle, the team are excited to showcase the Scottish premiere at the Storytelling Centre, on Friday 30 November, highlighting 2018’s Year of the Sea, showcasing how water’s 70% mass is critical to sustaining life on the planet, yet we still have much to learn about the depths of oceans, seas, estuaries and rivers.
Bridging the Gaps: Stories Between Languages, Genders & Cultures
A full-day workshop exploring storytelling as a tool to reach across barriers of language and culture, uniting people through shared imagination or experience. Covering three different areas, the day includes a session on non-verbal storytelling with Danish storyteller Svend-Erik Engh, theatre-making from an unvoiced perspective lead by writer, actor and director Annie George, as well as a session on BSL and communication between deaf and hearing communities facilitated by ethnologist, folklorist and secretary of Deaf History Scotland, Dr Ella Leith, alongside deaf storyteller Tania Allan and interpreter Jo Ross.
Dr Ella Leith says:
‘British Sign Language (BSL) is a visual, spatial and kinetic language performed on the hands, the torso and the face, through which you can see stories unfold in the air and characters be mapped onto the signer’s body. BSL is not only beautiful and expressive but also damagingly misunderstood.
‘People often don’t realise that BSL is an indigenous language of Scotland, with a rich heritage of storytelling and performance stretching back over centuries.
‘Getting the richness of BSL into the public consciousness – and into Scottish classrooms – is something we’re passionate about, so we’re offering the chance to sample BSL storytelling and learn about the transnational potential of using signed languages to cross borders, boundaries and cultures.’
Annie George explores how to create performances for the stage that give voice to stories from the margins, using examples from her recent work ‘Twa’ – where she integrated autobiographical storytelling and visual art to consider how women are silenced and ‘Home is Not the Place’ – raising questions around identity, belonging and home, stating:
‘My work contains universal themes that are common to people of all backgrounds, therefore recognisable, and I like the use of double narratives in a show to contrast and link themes.
‘I’m always struck by the importance of telling stories as a way of bearing witness, and leaving a mark, however “small” or “uncelebrated” our lives might be.’
And from giving space to unvoiced narratives to removing narrative for stronger communication, Svend-Erik Engh will lead a playful session to empower confidence with non-verbal storytelling, stating:
‘Non-verbal storytelling uses the body and voice to communicate without words. The voice is being stretched to its limits when you talk “gibberish”, which is fun and everyone who takes part will learn about communication without words.
‘As the listener, it’s full of surprises and becomes universal, removing the language barrier for the audience to share in the story.
‘As the storyteller, it’s like a dance of interaction with the audience. Non-verbal storytelling creates images for the listener using sounds to reflect actions in the story, distinct body language for atmosphere, and it also uses speed of delivery very consciously, as silence is a powerful part of non-verbal telling.’
Inspired by St Andrew himself, ‘Fisherman’s Feast’ has received support through Scotland’s Winter Festivals to bring the Galilean fisherman’s story of strength and sociability to life, accompanied by a sumptuous supper of fish and chips, celebrating cultural diversity in Scotland in all its forms.
Storyteller and author Donald Smith, who will recite the St Andrew story, said:
‘Andrew’s story tells of persecution and exile. But throughout he’s a bridge builder, making friends and connections wherever he goes, even as a refugee. That makes him the patron saint of welcome and hospitality, especially in troubled times.’
The traditional, creative arts are a vital and diverse element of Scottish cultural life, valued by people and communities – locally, nationally and internationally – whatever their background. They are underpinned by hospitality: sharing what we have to offer as people gather together, by invitation or coincidence, providing a means for voices hidden from mainstream society to be heard, in Scotland and abroad.
‘Fisherman’s Feast’ on Sat 1 December at 7pm will embrace music, song, poetry and story with contributions from Mara Menzies, Gerda Stevenson, Carlos Arredondo and Donald Smith – representing Kenyan, Chilean and Irish inheritances.
Carlos Arredondo is a self–taught guitarist, singer and one of the oldest Latin American performers in Scotland with more than 40 years’ experience. His songs and poetry regularly deal with mass displacement of people from one country to another.
‘To be invited to perform for an event dedicated to St Andrew makes me feel part of Scotland and it is a wonderful feeling.’ (Carlos Arredondo)
Gerda Stevenson will be reading from her latest acclaimed book: ‘QUINES: Poems in tribute to women of Scotland’ – a sweep through Scottish history from neolithic times to the 21st century, told through the eyes of women – scientists, artists, politicians, a salt-seller, a fishing fly-tyer, emigrants and immigrants, and a whole football team!
‘Gerda Stevenson’s fabulous QUINES – a groundbreaker of a book.’ (Jackie Kay, The Observer)
‘An inspiring collection.’ (Sunday Herald)
Family Fun while Supporting Inspiring Family Charity
Alongside this special evening for St Andrew’s Day, the Storytelling Centre host a Family Ceilidh full of fun and intrigue to discover Scotland’s national steps for all the family, on Sat 1 December, 2.30pm.
The charity that the Centre have partnered up with for Fair Saturday is Multi-Cultural Family Base. They have been delivering therapeutic services to communities since 1998, to enhance the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and their families, while celebrating diversity and friendship.
This perfectly captures the ethos of the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s programme of inclusion and welcome for all, with users of the service attending our Family Ceilidh, as well as raising awareness for the great work they do for marginalised communities.
Bridging the Gaps: Stories Between Languages, Genders & Cultures
Fri 30 Nov | 10.30am (6hrs) | £24 (£18 FM)
Rivers of Our Being
Fri 30 Nov | 7.30pm (1hr 15) | £10 (£8)
Sat 1 Dec | 2.30pm (1hr 30) | £5 (£4.50)
Sat 1 Dec | 7pm (2hrs) | £15 (£13)