The Festival runs from Thursday 28 October to Sunday 31 October. You can find the whole programme, with details on how to buy tickets, at www.orkneystorytellingfestival.co.uk.
Last year, during the pandemic, The Orcadian Trust took the decision to stay away from live performances, instead creating a collection of filmed sessions in which storytellers from Orkney and beyond told their tales. The sessions have had thousands of views online, and the Trust realised that they had reached a much wider audience than they would normally manage.
For the 2021 Orkney Storytelling Festival, organisers have created not only live events, but also curated a collection of ghostly stories which will be put on to the Trust’s YouTube channel at an appropriately spooky time.
However, the emphasis is still very much on live storytelling sessions, held in a variety of venues throughout Orkney. There really is nothing so satisfying as a live audience, explains Fran Flett Hollinrake, one of the local tellers.
‘It was fine and really interesting to make the films, but telling stories in front of a live audience is something different and special. You have that immediate relationship with the listeners, and you can feel the atmosphere in the room, which is responding to your stories. It’s like we are all sharing the same emotion – and that’s so powerful.’
This year, the invited guest storytellers are: Anne Hunter, a gifted storyteller, musician and artist, who grew up hearing stories of the Pendle Witches. Her stories often tell of strong women and matters of the heart, and her love of nature and landscape has inspired her for many years. Also joining the Festival for the first time is Mio Shudo, a Japanese storyteller and musician, who tells stories whilst accompanying herself on the clarsach. Mio will be sharing traditional Japanese folk tales and much more.
The Orkney Storytelling Festival has a strong partnership with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, held in Edinburgh every year. This year, they have sponsored a rising star of the storytelling scene, Ailsa Dixon, who will be joining us for the whole of our Festival. Ailsa has Orkney roots, and loves telling traditional Scottish and Orkney stories.
The programme is, as always, a mix of events inside and outside. There’s a walk of historical tales round Warbeth Cemetery, a literary bus tour, and plenty of opportunity to hear and see Mio, Ailsa and Anne. The traditional ‘island jaunt’ will be visiting Westray, and as is also traditional, the last night of the Festival, the Grand Finale, will take place in Stromness Town Hall. Regulars Tom Muir, Marita Lück, Erin Farley, Scott Gardiner and Fran Flett Hollinrake will be hosting, telling, and singing throughout, and there will be special guests too. Events will be filmed, and will be available to watch later on.
Orcadian Story Trust Chair and Festival organiser Tom Muir said:
‘These last couple of years have been tough on all of us, and it is lovely to bring the world together through stories. Our small festival with the big heart carries on!’