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Remembering the Legacy of Duncan Williamson as Part of National Storytelling Week

It’s fitting that Scotland’s national Centre for storytelling is honouring one of its most memorable enthusiasts, providing an opportunity to enjoy his stories told live, as well as a workshop to empower you to tell these fantastic tales. A three-fold exhibition of visual art, poetry and folk music brings to life the legacy of storyteller Duncan Williamson (1928-2007)

When Duncan Williamson died in 2007 he left behind a worldwide legacy of stories collected on his travels, not only from his own community of Travelling People, but from people in all walks of life. As “Scotland’s greatest modern-day storyteller” (The Guardian, 2007) Duncan was born in a tent on the shores of Loch Fyne and stated quite simply, ‘I was reared, born and bred on stories. That’s all I had in my life.

In seventy years amongst the Travelling People of Scotland, Williamson developed a formidable reputation for his skills and the range of his repertoire, celebrated through numerous publications of his work since the 1980s, acknowledged as a fundamental part of Scotland’s social and literary heritage.

Duncan’s way of telling a story and his profound understanding of human nature is still remembered by storytellers who knew and heard the man. There is a real knowledge in the ancient stories, an undying flame of spirit, which listeners to Duncan Williamson cannot forget. So, inspired by the teller’s ability to transport his audience to scenes the stories describe, Scots artist John Slavin has created new paintings, as he explains:

These Scottish folk tales of Duncan Williamson resonate with a universal wisdom. They reference an international time and place, a golden age; they elevate and expose the adventure, a permanence of source, events which come to us from Duncan.  

The stars are important, the Wise Men, the king’s advisers, the magicians who create the unicorn, images of the henwife, the hunchback, robbers, giants, fishermen, shepherds, and transformations of swans into princes and magicians into ravens.

I have seen in my mind’s eye those metamorphosing fairies, kings and flying horsebacks and felt them alive. I must respond to this life.

The ‘Painting the Wonder Tales’ exhibition launches at 6.30pm on Friday 1 February at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, where all are welcome, followed by the event, ‘The Birth of the Unicorn’ at 7.45pm, which features storytellers David Campbell, Linda Williamson and Helen East.

The two-week exhibition will bring together storytellers, musicians and poets, as if spilling from the paintings, with tributes to the memory of Scotland’s greatest storyteller.

‘He created spirals of figures, and colours created a gap in space. Spiritual visions from between worlds were present. My enthusiasm overflowed when I saw, in one of his paintings, the god Odin go strangely through an industrial suburb. It conjured the cinema of David Lynch.’ (Remi Mogenet, La Tribune de Genève)

Fri 1 Feb | 6.30pm
Painting the Wonder Tales Exhibition Launch

Fri 1 Feb | 7.45-9.30pm | £8
The Birth of the Unicorn

Sat 2 Feb | 10.30am-1pm | £16
Growing with Stories