LtoR: Sophie Stephenson, Davide Panzeri, Alistair Cole, Eilidh Munro and Gavin Pennycook on Calton Hill

TradFest 2015: A Feast of Culture in the Capital

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In its third edition after a triumphant pilot in 2013 and stonking debut in 2014, TradFest returns as Edinburgh’s only multi-arts festival dedicated to traditional folk arts, showcasing culture, live.

From Grammy award-winning US folk royalty like Mollie O’Brien through to the freshest Scottish folk collectives like rising duo Twelfth Day, TradFest showcases international acts alongside local talent, filling Scotland’s capital with music, song, film and stories. 

Taking place between 29 April and 10 May, and boasting over 90 events across 25 Edinburgh venues in Edinburgh (the hub is the Scottish Storytelling Centre), TradFest turns Edinburgh into a hive of activity inspired by and coinciding with Beltane and May Day, igniting ancestry with vibrant cultural creativity.

Performers from Italy, Norway, Sweden, the USA and Ireland will join top Scottish talent to create a vibrant and exciting 12 day festival featuring music concerts, talks and debates spanning in-depth studies of instruments through to political self-determination, storytelling sessions revelling in mystical folklore, fringe theatre, puppet shows, traditional dance sessions, walking tours, visual arts, film screenings and workshops.


Cahalen Morrison & Eli WestTradFest launches with gigs by Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, The Tannahill Weavers and Malinky at the Pleasance. Then watch out for a perfect storm of seasonal celebration with the Masque of Beltane on Calton Hill, followed on Fri 1 May by The May Day Concert featuring Leith’s Dick Gaughan  and the May Day Parade and Rally ‘Action against Austerity’ on Sat 2 May. These are accompanied by concerts at the Scottish Storytelling Centre including The Lyrical Heart where Frieda Morrison and guests invite you to experience the songs and tunes from North East Scotland, while The Badwills return after a sell-out last year with their rhythmical tammurriatas and hypnotic pizzicas.


Lindsay Lou and the Flatbelly'sThe Pleasance is a venue steeped in Old Town and Southside tradition and is the TradFest music hub, with performances in the Theatre and Cabaret Bar, courtesy of Soundhouse and Edinburgh Folk Club, with a stellar line-up of talent including The Nuala Kennedy Trio, Swedish stars Väsen, American roots collective Lindsay Lou & the Flatbelly’s (also offering an Art of Bluegrass workshop), Dallahan and Southern Tenant Folk Union.

There will also be nightly open sessions from 10pm, anchored by DJ Dolphin Boy to ensure an inclusive, ceilidh atmosphere.


Celestial Wives of the Meadow MariScreenings explore the myriad ways that world cinema has engaged with folk culture – folk as living tradition, as people’s history, as working class culture, as political movements or come-all-ye communities. This inaugural gathering will feature a series of rare and celebrated films, showcasing Scottish and British filmmakers, such as Ken Loach’s staple social commentary in Up the Junction alongside work from Italy, Russia and Africa, such as the Taviani Brothers’ Kaos, based on Pirandello’s short stories which marries cinematic neorealism and folk lyricism.

Each feature will be preceded by a folk short, including The Shutdown, which explores Alan Bissett’s memories of his father’s work at the Grangemouth Oil Refinery through to a mythical tale, The Fisherman’s Daughter, who falls in love with a selkie.


Tales in the MakingThe Scottish Storytelling Centre is a hub for Scotland’s traditional arts and crafts. It’s the TradFest melting pot for song, story, music, dance and craft crossover, presenting opportunities for artists to come together and explore cultural traditions with a contemporary spin. From workshops and to musical evenings discovering the story behind the songs, you are guaranteed a warm welcome, with highlights including the Craft Scotland and Storytelling Centre collaboration Tales in the Making, legacy appreciation in the 100th year mark for two folk legends Alan Lomax and Ewan McColl, plus an interesting examination of women in Scot’s song with Mairi Campbell, Kim Edgar and Emily Smith in A Fine Wee Lass?


Edinburgh Ceilidh ClubEdinburgh is hoaching with traditional arts and culture. Don’t miss out on a TradFest meander through Edinburgh with themed tours and trails for those who want to explore a cultural angle on Scotland’s capital like Old Town Tales, Whisky, Geology and Democracy.

TradFest venues range from the classical lines of the renowned Queen’s Hall who host Bella Hardy, Breabach and Irish traditional legend Mary Black embarking on a finale tour, through to the ever expanding Summerhall spaces showcasing Edinburgh’s vibrant Ceilidh Club as well as a series of great concerts under the banner Nothing Ever Happens Here – digging fun at the abundance on offer in Edinburgh – with TradFest gigs featuring Rozi Plain and Khartoum Heroes.

From the large scale party vibe there’s also the opportunity to enjoy events up close in more intimate venues such as The Royal Oak, home of the Wee Folk Club, as well book events at the National Library of Scotland and Blackwell’s Bookshop including looking at Scotland’s Future History.

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