Open Word – Open World: Storytelling Festival On Sale


The Scottish International Storytelling Festival Programme is now live, featuring a feast of culture across 12 days of live storytelling, family events, talks, tours and more.

Hosted by the storytellers of Scotland in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, SISF makes an ancient artform vibrant in our human present, with invited storytellers from Thailand, Australia, Iran, India, New Zealand, Sub-Saharan Africa, Singapore, Korea, Pakistan, South America, Eastern and Western Europe, China, Japan, England and Ireland.

Discover the magic of tradition radiating today with 69 events in Edinburgh and 29 throughout Scotland, from conferences to taster sessions, walking tours to informal family gatherings, there’s something here for everybody.  

‘This is our biggest year and we are absolutely delighted with the programme – it’s the Festival of festivals, a worldwide magic carpet for story lovers. Don’t miss the flight!’

– Donald Smith, Festival Director

Download the Programme                 Browse Events Online

Seasonal Specials

Taking place each year as the dark nights close in, reflecting how communities would gather to entertain each other as the days got shorter and nights grew longer, the Festival ensures traditions are steeped in events for young and old.  

seasonalKeep an eye out for Guisers Galore in partnership with the Museum of Edinburgh, Family Samhuinn and The Devil and the Clutch of Fools: A Spontaneous Marathon of Halloween Storytelling which promises to be an exciting culmination of 12 hours non-stop storytelling for All Hallows’ Eve!

Plus, Open Hearth evenings continue this year, linking to the traditional Scottish ceilidh of welcome, hosted by Scottish storytellers with international guests and musicians adding to the atmospheric evenings, and our finale Ossian Supper promises to be a treat for all the senses!

Contemporary Approaches

contemporaryStorytelling is play; it responds in the moment and can be utilised many ways.

Innovative ways of working with stories are showcased in Lost Tales Live by Travis De Vries who pairs visual art, music, writing and storytelling all linking to Aboriginal myths, while BeUnited and The Champions present South African dancers and interactive contemporary life stories in Champions Tale – A South African Story.

Plus, Tongue Tied & Twisted – Indian Tales: Contemporary Twist fuses traditional Indian storytelling with Urban UK Hip Hop to bridge generational and cultural gaps, while A Cabaret of Pestilence highlights how multi-artform collaboration can lead to richer experiences for the audience.

Education Day

educationOn Monday 23 October, two sessions for teachers and educators aim to inspire and rejuvenate. There’s a practical workshop highlighting how storytelling can support learning in a school context with Storytelling in Schools: Beyond Performance and Gifting Every Child explores the role of culture in contemporary education in partnership with the National Library of Scotland.

Teachers will also love our Local Campaign resources to bring storytelling to the classroom – find out more

Global Gathering
Wednesday 25 – Friday 27 October

For the first time, the SISF hosts a Global Gathering of storytelling activists.

Linking to the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh as a Festival City and the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, it will explore the important heritage of the Festival over its 28 year history, alongside looking forward to the future of storytelling.

Based on the themes of the Earth Charter initiative, the conference showcases national and international guest contributors and training opportunities, with each day taking a broad theme of focus exploring Storytelling for Nature, Storytelling for Peace and Justice, and Storytelling for Hope.


familyFamily Events

Focused on the first and last weekend of the festival, with plenty of free and drop in options for busy families.

Highlights include a magical Storytelling Machine show from Poland’s Pinokio Theatre and a fun workshop on Polish folktales, our Wee Folk Magic day featuring seven Scottish storytellers and our annual Enchanted Garden large-scale storytelling in situ at the Royal Botanic Garden.

Community Events

communityThe Festival encourages all communities to get involved with storytelling through our Outreach Campaign, to bring communities together for participative events with connections to Scottish traditions.

Jan Bee Brown of The Thrive Archive hosts a day of walking tours at St Margaret’s House where she’s collected Smokey Brae stories of steam trains, famous historically in the Meadowbank area of the City.

Plus, there’s great celebrations on 29 October as Leith Community Croft, St James Church Hall and Trinity House celebrate diverse, vibrant culture at Rainbow On Leith with food, stories, music and dance, as well as international guest participations.


literatureStorytelling has a special affinity with literature, reflected in our programme drawing inspiration from writers, novels and poets.

Mercat Tours have commissioned a special story walk celebrating Edinburgh’s influence on writers the world over; poet Ken Cockburn leads a panel discussion and an Old Town tour of the story makers who helped build the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature; and novels get the spoken word treatment, with Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives presented by Kenyan storyteller Maimouna Jallow and Wu Cheng’en’s 16th century publication Journey to the West is presented by Chinese storyteller Ma Wei and Glasgow based Chinese storyteller Fong Liu.

Download the Programme                 Browse Events Online

SISF Performers