Untitled design (11).png

One Week Countdown – TradFest Recommends!

With less than one week to go until the Opening Concert of this year’s TradFest, it is high time we asked the people involved in the festival what they are gearing up to see!

DonaldDonald Smith, TRACS Director

Sat 28 April, The White Bird Passes: A rare opportunity to see this stark yet stunningly beautiful evocation of writer Jessie Kesson’s childhood in Elgin and subsequently in an orphanage at Skene. A Scottish writer and film not to be missed.

Mon 30 April, A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick: Pipe music and storytelling combined in what has to be the best titled event in TradFest. And we’re in the most skilled of hands with Calum MacCrimmon, John Mulhearn and David Francis. It’s time for the pipers to renew an age old social connection with storytelling traditions.

Fri 4 May, The Rymours: You couldn’t make this one up. For decades folklorists gathered as The Rymours Club in John Knox House to save the nation’s folksongs, stories and riddles. Vital forerunners of the School of Scottish Studies, they assembled a kist of treasures that Ewan McVicar, Christine Kidd and Scott Gardiner now unpack, in an exclusive premiere showcase.

DavidDavid Francis, TRACS and Traditional Music Forum

I am always drawn to events with a strong connection to place, so The Bernicia Suite (Cellardyke in Fife), the launch of Perthshire Tales, Duncan Chisholm’s The Gathering (Sutherland), Thrawn Tales and Stubborn Songs (Newhaven) and 250 Co-op Years (Fenwick, Ayrshire) all look rich.

On the music front, piper Brighde Chaimbeul is something special. Furth of Scotland, Canada’s Fretless, Swedish trio Väsen and Senegal’s Samba Sene go straight to the heart and the feet. From the dance events, the elegant and nimble Nic Gareiss leads an ensemble including the superb Irish fiddler Caomhín Ó Raghallaigh in This is How We Fly, while on the storytelling side an evening of Robin Hood tales and Purple, White and Green, Lea Taylor and Nicola Wright’s story of the Scottish suffragettes, should get the imagination working.

I’m going to be busy stage-side as well with Bella McNab’s Dance Band and with A Flaming Wrath for Squinting Patrick, an updating of the story behind one of Scotland’s most famous pibrochs, with pipers Calum MacCrimmon and John Mulhearn. Finally, I’ll be getting to as many of the Folk Film Gathering screenings as I can.

LindsayLindsay Corr, Marketing and Communications Manager TRACS

I’ve been eyeing up clips from Pirita Tuisku and Christina Liddell in dance rehearsals for Single Life, which I’m looking forward to seeing on International Dance Day (Sun 29 April) after I partake in the Irish Set Dance Workshop, and as a Leither in between, I’ll leg it down to Leith Docker’s Club for Thrawn Tales And Stubborn Songs From Norway And Newhaven which sounds like a fascinating afternoon of stories and songs showcasing maritime links between Scotland and Norway.

I’ll be attending most of the storytelling shows too, and am most intrigued by The Purple, White & Green: The Story Of The Scottish Suffragettes on Fri 4 May and Kin: Fortune, Feuds & The Family Tree on Sat 5 May, which promises ancestral tales of intrigue from a fab selection of tellers, then I’ll enjoy some mystical tales alfresco with Jane Mather’s storytelling walk, Sleeping Dragon: Arthur’s Seat on Sun 6 May.

I’ve been listening to Woody Pines a lot lately, so hoping to catch him on Mon 30 Apr, and as a huge Robert Louis Stevenson fan I’m sure Kirsty Law’s Young Night Thought on Wed 2 May will impress.

Jane-Ann and DouglasJane-Ann Purdy & Douglas Robertson, The Soundhouse Organisation

For Jane-Ann it’s all about the fiddles … and an intriguing piece by an Indian/Scottish collaboration:

I’m going for RANT at The Pleasance on Fri 27 April as my first pick. There is an unbelievable amount of invention, subtlety, beauty and power that comes from these four feisty women and their fiddles. Their virtuosity is breathtaking and the standard of the material first class. Staying at the Pleasance I couldn’t not pick the return of Shooglenifty, who’ll be spreading some pure musical joy on Sat 28 April. After 18 months of grief and quiet reflection the band are back with a BANG and an amazing new fiddler who will blow your socks off.

Finally, I’m going to be heading to the Storytelling Centre on Fri 4 May to see a totally new work combining music and storytelling. Where I Stand: A New Conversation, is a unique collaboration between four young artists from India and Scotland, which received a standing ovation at its premiere in Mumbai in March. I’m sure it’s going to go down well here.

Douglas chooses an eclectic mix of acts from the Highlands, Yorkshire and North America:

I’m looking forward to seeing Canadian supergroup The Fretless on Sun 29 April at The Traverse. I’ve heard so many good things about them, they’re much admired by other musicians (which is always a good sign!) and are full to brim with 5* ratings. Next on my list is another visitor from across the pond, Sheesham, Lotus & ‘Son, whom we’ve put on many times. They’ll be at the Netherbow on Thu 3 May. These guys combine excellent musicianship with a sense of pure fun and inventiveness that no other acts can match. They have created the most incredible (and absurd in some cases) instruments, which really need to be seen/heard to be believed!

On Sun 6 May we’re hosting the multi-talented Mary Ann Kennedy, whom we have promoted as part of her family band, The Campbells of Greepe, and solo. But whatever the line-up, Mary Ann never fails to put on an incredibly moving and entertaining performance. Don’t miss it.

My final choice is a solid gold Soundhouse favourite. Martin Simpson comes to The Traverse on Mon 7 May and wraps up our TradFest programme, combining phenomenal guitar playing with a powerful voice and ‘on the nail’ political commentary. Perfect.

Pia Walker, Traditional Dance Forum, TRACS Board Member

Choosing is difficult as this year’s programme is packed with must see, must hear and must do opportunities.

Why not start out with the Opening Concert? It is a unique opportunity to experience a host of talent under one roof. Definitely one not to miss! And afterwards why not join in the Family Ceilidh on the Sunday. It will bring a spring to your steps.

I’m sure whatever you choose your feet will be tapping and your mood will be lifted by the music, storytelling and dance on offer during TradFest.

Professor Gary West, Board Member TRACS  

My recommendations? Oh dear, where do we start? It’s been so wonderful to see TradFest achieve what it set out to do, which is to bring all of the traditional arts together under one banner, and to showcase the riches of talent and creativity to be found right across the nation, and indeed well beyond. Tradition brings together past, present and future, and so in that spirit the Passing it On opening concert at the Storytelling Centre will be a fantastic celebration of that process in action. Bringing emerging artists in instrumental music, song and dance together with their heroes and mentors is a great way to kick off this year’s festival. And as a piper myself, I’ll give special mention to one of the guests on that bill, Brighde Chaimbeul, one of the most exciting and lyrical players to emerge in many years, who you can also catch in partnership with fiddle guru Aidan O’Rourke on Tue 1 May.

Talking of fiddle gurus, there are rich pickings this year on that front – Duncan Chisholm, Ryan Young and RANT, to name but three. I’m gutted I can’t get to the The Rymours on Fri 4 May, as three of my favourites, Christine Kidd, Ewan McVicar and Scott Gardiner, resurrect the songs and craic of the early 20th Century Rymour Club – please go along and tell me all about it!

I’ll console myself with the thought that I can however make it to A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick on Mon 30 April to enjoy some of the tales that lie behind the piece of pipe music of that name. The Culture Word: Unpacked series promises much food for thought, and the Folk Film Gathering makes it ever harder to choose where to be on any given night! Ohh, there’s just so much. I’d better stop now!

Tina Rees, Membership & Communications Traditional Music Forum

With such a variety of amazing shows across TradFest 2018 it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. Eilidh Firth, a fiddler from Dundee, recently wrote a fantastic blog for the Traditional Music Forum about her recent trip to Mumbai. I would recommend going to see Where I Stand: A New Conversation on Fri 4 May, 8pm, which is the result of a collaboration between Scottish and Indian artists including Eilidh, whose blog is also well worth a read as it’s brilliant.

I would also recommend This Is How We Fly on Sun 29 April, 8pm. The highlight of this show for me is dancer Nic Gareiss. I first met Nic whilst studying at the University of Limerick. His unique style of percussive dancing can complement any music and leave you mesmerised.

My last recommendation is Battle Of The Folk Bands on Sun 6 May, 7.30pm. What a great opportunity to see and support new talent on the Scottish folk music scene as five bands are sure to make this competition a night of new and exciting music.

ElaineElaine Webster, TRACS Board Member  

A really exciting programme woven through with joy, acknowledging how much work is done year-long. The Family Ceildih appeals with many opportunities to learn songs and dance for all ages in a natural, enjoyable environment. The Scots Music Group is to launch a Scots song book, making sure that the songs will travel.

I love the sound of the outdoor events such as Bridgend Farmhouse Family Day and The Secrets of the Braids: Story Walk. The collaborations with schools and community groups are exciting. I am really keen to see innovative work such as Young Night Thought with contemporary folk from Kirsty Law focussing on childhood, especially appealing as it has harping too with Esther Swift supporting.

Time for quieter reflection will suit me well in the talks, memories and discussion, Scotland’s National Music Events and Remembering 250 Co-op yearsor The Rymours cherishing ballads and looking after traditions… so many that I will need to check the dates and plump!

The Storie Di Terra ink drawings, illustrations of Annalisa Salis will be a must for me. Great to see such powerful exchanges between countries, with similarities and differences jumping out. I am particularly interested in Journeys: the Women Who Made the Mountains Sing, the Finnish rune singer Anna-Maria Toivonen and Highland Perth storyteller Claire Hewitt combination sounds intriguing. Partnerships with folk cinema gives me the opportunity to celebrate the compassion and language of the North East with Jessie Kesson again with the screening of The White Bird Passes, with an introduction from Ruth Kilpatrick, thank you for that!

I’m also looking forward to favourites Shooglenifty and Bob Knight at Leith Folk Club but This is How We Fly sounds enticingly different too with, Caoimhín Ó Raghllaigh, Nic Gareiss, Seán Mac Erlaine and Swedish percussionist Petter Berndalen. Will have to give that a go.

DanielDaniel Abercrombie, Programme & Festival Manager, Scottish Storytelling Centre/TradFest

For me, the great thing about TradFest is the variety of performances and styles on offer, as you can experience something new and exciting, as well as enjoying familiar faces. I’m especially looking forward to two events which showcase a mix of international performers and differing styles.

Robin Hood: Riot, Rant and Rebellion (Sun 6 May) brings together many May Day traditions and folklores from Germany, Denmark, Jamaica, Scotland and Sherwood.

I’m also excited to hear stories and rune singing from Scotland and Finland in Journeys: The Women Who Made the Mountains Sing (Sat 28 Apr) at the Storytelling Centre.  But there’s so much choice, I’ll be dropping in on some great music from Kirsty Law and friends in Young Night Though (Wed 2 May) and also enjoying the fruits of A New Conversation (Fri 4 May) bringing together young Indian and Scottish performers.

Ásta Ásbjörnsdóttir, General Manager Scottish Storytelling Centre

There are quite a few performers and events at TradFest this year that I have seen at previous festivals and would love to see again. In 2016 I managed to catch a few moments with Sheesham and Lotus & ‘Son and was thoroughly charmed by them. I was blown away by Väsen in 2015 and danced my socks off to Shooglenifty at the very first TradFest in 2013. I was also enchanted by The Women Who Made the Mountains Sing during the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in 2016. I could listen to Finnish all day long, despite not understanding a word.

Unfortunately, I will miss the first weekend of the festival when many of these events are taking place due to being away from the city. (Ridiculous behaviour, I know!) So I am going to have to discover some new favourites. Woody Pines has the look of someone I could fall for (musically speaking, of course) and I’m excited to see Young Night Thought with its mix of paintings, film and music. As a lover of storytelling I have to mention Kin: Fortune Feuds and the Family Tree as well as Robin Hood: Riot Rant and Rebellion as special picks and I am really looking forward to seeing A New Conversation, the result of a collaboration between musicians and storytellers from Scotland and India!

Ideally, I would like to go to everything. It’s almost a shame I have to work. Luckily, that’s one of the other things I enjoy about TradFest. Welcoming both new and familiar faces to all the wonderful events we have on offer and making sure everyone has a great time. See you around, I hope!

Miriam Morris, Storytelling Network Coordinator

I’m going to be a busy gal from the 26 April to 6 May. There’s so many great things in this year’s TradFest line-up. Music, song, storytelling, dance and film but one show that I am especially looking forward to, combines two of TradFest’s programme strands –  music and storytelling. Aka, the perfect duo.

Where I Stand: A New Conversation is a performance that has been shaped by a collaborative storytelling residency consisting of two artists from Mumbai: actress and director, Sheena Khalid, Kashmiri poet and songwriter Mohammad Muneem and two from Scotland: Midlothian based storyteller Daniel Allison and Dundonian fiddle-player, Eilidh Firth.

The performance debuted in Mumbai in mid-March and I was fortunate enough to see this first run in the wonderful G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture in India and I’m looking forward to watching it again on 4 May in the joyous little creative hub and theatre space of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The performance merges music and storytelling to reflect on the connections, differences and influences that link India and Scotland. Combining traditional Celtic tales of war and love with contemporary stories of displacement, land and community, at the heart of stories are themes that are of course, relevant to our current political environment. However, the show is not solely a performance with a socio or political agenda or diatribe. Rather, it is an inclusive and sincere piece that simply reminds us that stories can connect and divide us. In this case, the similarities and paradoxes are warmly presented through story, song, music and Kashmiri poetry.

It will be great to experience this again with an Edinburgh audience and it really is a conversation that you’ll want to be part of.

Annemarie Froemke, Marketing and Communications Development Officer

TradFest not only involves a huge variety of performances, but also engages numerous locations and venues across Edinburgh, which makes the festival so exciting!

I’m looking forward to hearing rebellious tales from around the world at the Robin Hood: Riot, Rant & Rebellion storytelling session (Sun 6 May). Being German, I’m always excited to reconnect with my own culture, whilst discovering new story traditions from other places.

Island life and small communities have always fascinated me, which is why I’ll join St Kilda: Islands at the Edge of the World, at Blackwell’s Bookshop (Thu 26 Apr) to discover more about this remote spot in the North Atlantic. A perfect companion to this event is the Filmhouse’s screening of Ill fares the land (Sat 5 May), a film about the last five families remaining on St. Kilda.

On the music and dance side I wouldn’t want to miss This is How We Fly, at the Pleasance on International Dance Day (Sun 29 Apr)! The show merges traditional music and Nic Gareiss’ unique style of percussion dance, which adds to the visual and acoustic richness of the group’s performance.

Finally, Gillian Paterson’s Inside Mariotta’s House, promises a light-hearted dive into the history of John Knox House, revealing who its true owner was!

MichelleMichelle Brady, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland Co-ordinator

What a bit of luck to have International Dance Day (Sun 29 Apr) fall on the opening weekend of TradFest! I plan to start that morning with elegant Quadrilles, the afternoon dancing lively Irish sets, or a spirited Highland Fling workshop, and will top the evening with the innovative and expressive hard shoe dancer Nic Gareiss in This is How We Fly.

I also plan to hit the streets for the May Day Parade and Porty Fun Fiddles Brass Blast Promenade (fingers crossed this beautiful sunshine holds!). Lesley Riddoch’s talk Indoor Scots, on why we have lost our connection with nature and the outdoors sounds interesting and timely. And lastly, I got to mention the up and coming creative force of female piper Brighde Chaimbeul. I won’t be missing her performance with Aidan O’Rourke on 1 May.