Scottish International Storytelling Festival returns, with special events strand for George Mackay Brown

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SCOTTISH islanders have used their mobile phones to recreate a tale by one of the country’s best-loved storytellers.

Marking the centenary of George Mackay Brown’s birth, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival is holding a series of special events to celebrate his life and work.

Still from The Storm Watchers - Scottish International Storytelling Festival
The Storm Watchers will be shown as part of a special events strand, celebrating George Mackay Brown.

During the upcoming festival’s opening weekend on October 16-17, a film made by a group of women on Orkney will bring to life his early play, The Storm Watchers.

Filming the adaptation entirely on their phones during lockdown and capturing the anxieties, regrets, fears and memories of the women, the drama revolves around their lives as they await the aftermath of a storm whilst their men are at sea.

Following this, a short question and answer session will be held with the director Gerda Stevenson and composer Alasdair Nicolson.

Mackay Brown was a founding patron of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and the special programme strand will kick off over a fortnight of events for this year’s festival.

Inviting audiences to embrace the theme of ‘Imagine’ through a variety of in person and online sessions, there will be storytelling, music, films and art displays.

Book illustration from One Million Oysters at the Top of the Mountain, image by Miren Asiain Lora, whose work will be exhibited during the festival.

Presenting a rich programme of 190 live performances, there will be a mixture of event types, including a family programme and interactive workshops.

Creating its largest local programme yet, locations span the length of the country from Dumfries and Galloway to Orkney.

Unlike previous festivals, the range of hosts has widened to include performers new to storytelling, alongside leading Scottish storytellers.

Festival Director Donald Smith said: “Stories and songs are vital for human survival. They carry our emotions, memories and values.

“They bind us together as families, communities and a nation, especially through tough times. As we emerge from the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival will continue to engage, inspire and entertain as travel through stories.”

He added: “Our festival commissions invite us to imagine different pasts, futures, or timeless others, to challenge what we know and create the images of what we are yet to discover.

“These stories form the core of our live programme, whilst our Guid Crack and Global Lab sessions offer online participation in unique storytelling ceilidhs and workshops.”

Running a digital programme alongside its in person events, the festival is striving to widen its reach.

All events will take place from October 15-31, with a full programme available to view here.