TRACS Picks for TradFest 2016

The TradFest programme is full of fantastic events to tickle your traditional tastes. For those unsure where to start, here’s a few picks from some of the TRACS team on events that are at the top of their to-do lists.

Daniel Abercrombie – Programme and Events Manager, Scottish Storytelling Centre

I’m excited for the opening night of TradFest (27 Apr), where we host Wayfaring Strangers at the Storytelling Centre, followed by Dàimh, Niteworks & Ghettocroft at The Caves. A great way to kick off the Festival! 

There are so many interesting performances throughout, but I’m particularly interested in Ross Whyte & Alasdair Whyte (5 May), Sheesham and Lotus & ‘Son (6 May), and, of course, I’ll be taking my 2-year-old to Artie’s Tartan Tales (2 May)!

Michelle Kelly – Dance Coordinator, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland

You’ll find me on the dance floor at one of the ceilidhs, maybe even an impromptu dance session at the TradFest Club (28 Apr & 1, 5, 6 May)!

TradBeats‘ collaborative workshops in step dance, beatboxing, Gaelic mouth music and body percussion is on the list, a rare opportunity to experiment with voice and movement through rhythm (2 May). Sophie Stephenson and Mairi Britton lead the step dance element and I’ll also be going along to their performance with Huradal later that evening (2 May).

Then there’s EdinBal’s European Ceilidh with Benoit Guerbigny from France with local talent Gillespie & Wolfe (30 Apr). It’s sure to be a high-energy evening, full of fun and they give you a quick class to start, so no prior experience is needed. Dance Base also have a couple of drop-in ceilidh dance classes for those new to traditional dance (28 Apr & 5 May) and there’s an afternoon Family Ceilidh at the Storytelling Centre for the wee ones (7 May).

Morag Wells – TRACS Languages and Digital Apprenticeship

It’s going to be tough choosing my highlights as there’s such a plethora of goodness on offer, but here goes:

To start off with a bang, Dàimh, Niteworks & Griogair’s Ghettocroft at The Caves (27 Apr) looks set to be some party, with three of the most dynamic and exciting bands on the traditional music scene in one of Edinburgh’s best and most unusual venues.

And to get in the spirit for May Day and its associated traditions, May Mumming: Folk Drama Workshop (30 Apr) at the Storytelling Centre will be the perfect preparation to join in with the May Day Parade & Rally (7 May) – fun for all the family, and I look forward to the fancy dress!

Back to the music, the Storytelling Centre will play host to both Mike Vass’s stunning In the Wake of Neil Gunn (1 May), as well Ross Whyte & Alasdair Whyte’s new project (5 May), incorporating an electronic soundscape and beautiful Gaelic singing.

And finally, I can’t wait to see the beautiful Irish animation Song of the Sea (7 May) at The Filmhouse, as part of the second outing of the world’s first Folk Film Gathering!

Elaine Webster – Scottish Language Dictionaries and TRACS Board Member

Such a treat of a programme – wide, deep and welcoming. TradFest is ideal for celebrating the languages and culture of Scotland in all moods, reflective and loud, drawing awbodie in.

I always love the emotion in Siobhan Miller’s voice and the support group Huradal brings the bonus of step dancing (2 May). Fresh and exciting combinations such as Talisk (8 May) and Clype (2 May) are beckoning and the TradFest spirit of the Men from Leith (6 May) will warm the Queen’s Hall with their talent.

I’m thrilled to see that the Folk Film Gathering programme continues at the Filmhouse with fascinating stories frae aw ower the warld and I plan to savour the sense of place in Venus Peter (8 May) again, as well as encouraging reflection and discussion at Summer Walkers/Journeys to a Kingdom (3 May) at the Storytelling Centre.

I am delighted to see arts and crafts are woven through the programme, offering colour and texture for everyone with the tapestry workshop and the Knitting and Stitching Show (28 Apr – 1 May) at the Royal Highland Centre. Along with visitors and locals, I will seek out the photography exhibition Land, Sea and Sky: Fae Fife to Faroe (21 Apr – 3 May).

The talks really appeal too, including Discover Wild America with John Muir and Rebuilding the University (both 5 May). It’s wonderful to have the richness of The End o the Shift included in the programme, with highlights from folklorist Margaret Bennett (3 May). Plus, families will love the ceilidh experiences, from the cross-generational Family Ceilidh at the Storytelling Centre (7 May), to the international elements at EdinBal (30 Apr) through to the Inclusive Ceilidh session at Dance Base (28 Apr & 5 May).

Ellie Logan – Membership Coordinator for Traditional Music Forum

If only I had an empty diary! But I will be making space for the European Ceilidh with Benoit Guerbigny (30 Apr) at St Peter’s Church Hall. As an aspiring melodeon player I want to sit at the feet of Benoit and absorb some of that skill.

I will also be starting off my TradFest at The Caves with Dàimh, Niteworks & Griogair’s Ghettocroft (27 Apr). And I don’t think I will be able to resist In the Wake of Neil Gunn by Mike Vass (1 May).  

Bea Ferguson – Scottish Storytelling Forum Chair & TRACS Board Member

TradFest offers a marvellous opportunity to enjoy old favourites and discover new ones in all fields of the traditional arts, but where to start?

My recommendations would include Christina Stewart’s Kist O Dreams (3 May); her wonderful voice singing haunting Scottish lullabies should be a real treat. Tak Aff Yer Dram: Tales & Songs of Whisky (28 Apr) with Stuart McHardy sounds interesting – combining three of my favourite tipples in one programme – and the May Mumming Workshop (30 Apr) looks like a lot of fun.

I hope I make the 5am start for the Dawn Rising walk up Arthur’s Seat (1 May) but, if not, I may have to get my exercise at one of the many ceilidhs on offer in a great variety of venues. And I definitely won’t be missing the Folk Film Gathering at the Filmhouse. 

Sophie Cameron – TRACS Marketing & Communication Officer

This year’s programme has so much going on, it’s going to be an exciting (and very busy) couple of weeks! I’m also going to be starting off with Dàimh, Niteworks & Griogair’s Ghettocroft at the Caves (27 Apr), and am hoping to catch lots more music over the course of the festival – top of my list are Leif (3 May), Blueflint (1 May) and Ross Whyte & Alasdair Whyte (5 May).

I’d also like to get over to one of the Ceilidhs at Dance Base (28 Apr & 5 May), and am looking forward to seeing some live storytelling: The Magical Fusion with Mara Menzies, Claire McNicol and Ana Lines (1 May) and Riders of the Sidhe with David Campbell and Linda Williamson (30 Apr) both sound really intriguing, particularly if you’re interested in folklore.

The Folk Film Gathering is also a great chance to see some lesser-known titles. I’d particularly like to see Vacas, about Basque farmers (2 May), and Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which focuses on a Native American community in South Dakota (12 May). Most of the sessions are introduced by a storyteller, who’ll tell a tale related to the film’s theme – a great example of how newer media can blend with traditional arts.

Donald SmithDonald Smith – TRACS Director

Wayfaring Strangers (27 April) catches my eye because of my family connections with Northern Ireland, as does James Connolly – from Edinburgh’s Cowgate to the Dublin GPO (1 May). It’s also grand to see Cathal McConnell in TradFest with Susanna Orr-Holland (29 April).  I also like the sound of the Treasure Troves of Scottish Tradition series (2-6 May) at the National Library, while Trad Talk: Crossing the Borders squares up to the biggest issue of our times – is culture a barrier or a bridge? Finally, I will as always be shouldering Edinburgh’s Blue Blanket on the Mayday Parade (7 May) because workers’ rights are human rights and Edinburgh has a proud tradition of radical thought, which is an important part of this May Festival.

Steve Byrne – TRACS Board Member

This is a tough ask – lots in the programme this year covering my various fields of interest!

My music picks would be Ewan McLennan (28 Apr) and Clype (2 May) at the Pleasance. Ewan is a stellar guitar player with a great choice of songs, both lyrical and hard-hitting. I’ve enjoyed Clype’s music a lot over the past year; a lovely combination of gentleness and musicality. Also two great pals settle in at the Storytelling Centre for Frieda Morrison’s Images of the Song (30 Apr) followed by Mike Vass’ In the Wake of Neil Gunn (1 May).

My folklore and research interests are piqued by Margaret Bennett’s The End o the Shift (3 May), and the talk (4 May) and concert (30 Apr) celebrating the Macmath: The Silent Page project. Lastly, dance into spring at the Scots Music Group’s Fundraising Ceilidh with Da Hooley (30 Apr).

Lindsay Corr – Marketing & Communications Manager, Scottish Storytelling Centre

I’ll be making sure I see as much as possible to soak up the atmosphere but top of my music list so far is catching local group Dowally (29 Apr) who join the TradFest Club after their gig, Irish duo Leif (3 May), funky Scots/Iranian arrangements from GOL (5 May) and Sheesham And Lotus & ‘Son (6 May).

I’m determined to get up (or not sleep!) for stories on Arthur’s Seat at Dawn Rising (1 May), as well as TradFest Trail: The Tour (5-7 May) and the Union Canal and Meanwhile Garden Tour too (1 & 8 May).

Storytelling is rich in this programme. I am excited by tales of mythological Gods and Goddesses in The Magical Fusion (1 May) and stories of Scotland’s countryside, coast and glen at When Shall We Three Meet Again (4 May), as well as learning more about Thomas the Rhymer (30 Apr).

David Francis – TRACS Associate Director and Music Coordinator

Ewan McLennan (28 Apr)
Nordic Fiddlers Bloc (3 May)
Martin Simpson (4 May)
Nuala Kennedy Band (7 May)
Macmath: The Silent Page (30 Apr)
The Treasure Troves of Scottish Tradition series (2-6 May)
Altan (5 May)
The Mummers’ Ceilidh Dance (6 May)
The Flax Flower: A Ballad Retold (29 Apr)
In the Wake of Neil Gunn (1 May)
Artie’s Tartan Tales (2 May)
Siobhan Miller and Huradal (2 May)
Pulse (7 May)

See all TradFest events