Edinburgh Tradfest announces its 2024 programme

Edinburgh Tradfest has launched its 2024 programme of traditional music, storytelling, film, workshops, talks, ceilidhs, and special events taking place at various venues across the city, thanks to continued support from The National Lottery through Creative Scotland and from the William Grant Foundation.

Over the 11 days of the Festival, hundreds of international and Scottish musicians, storytellers and artists will perform, kicking off on Friday 3 May with live music from electronica supergroup VALTOS, headlining a bumper line-up of musicians including Assynt and Josie Duncan at the Queen’s Hall. Also playing on opening weekend is multi-award winning folk singer and guitar master Martin Simpson, and Scandi-fiddlers Nordic Fiddlers Bloc. Plus, Hands Up For Trad’s concert to celebrate #WorldPlayAStrathspeyDay takes place on Sat 4 May – the day when people all around the world are invited to record, video and upload themselves playing a strathspey to social media. And, the city’s annual May Day Parade on Sun 5 May will leave from the Castle at mid-day and finish at The Pleasance where there will be a rally, music and stalls.

Other international musicians headlining at this year’s Edinburgh Tradfest include raucous fiddle folk duo Lena Jonsson from Northern Sweden and Brittany Haas from Northern California; Canada’s finest fiddle quartet The Fretless joined by award-winning folk singer-songwriter Madeleine Roger; LA-based singer-songwriter Alice Howe (appearing with Freebo); and Irish fiddler Clare Sands. Closer to home Everyone’s Welcome To Edinburgh, this year’s new commission with tunes and songs from the capital city is curated and arranged by award-winning fiddler Robbie Greig. It will be performed by some of the most talented musicians in Scotland – Ciaran Ryan, Duncan Lyall, Hannah Rarity, Jenn Butterworth, and Signy Jakobsdottir.

Other huge Scottish talents joining the line-up are Julie Fowlis who will close this year’s festival at the Assembly Rooms with special guests Laura Wilkie and Ian Carr; Gaelic supergroup Dàimh; velvet harmonies from fresh new electro-trad band Birdvox (Inge Thomson, Charlotte Printer, Jenny Sturgeon, Sarah Hayes); Triptic formed from three members of Moishe’s Bagel (Greg Lawson, Phil Alexander and Mario Caribé); and a whole host of talented new musicians and soloists including BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalist 2024 Evie Waddell.

At the Scottish Storytelling Centre the festival continues with storytelling and spoken word events including premieres of Rickle O’ Stanes a tale about Scotland’s land and the layers of history on which we stand today with storyteller Shona Cowie, musician Neil Sutcliffe and dramaturg Liam Hurley; old tales from Lithuania and around the world brought to life by Daiva Ivanauskaite and musician Gaynor Barradell in Fire from the Woods a new production exploring the silence between generations and life growing up without hearing stories from your ancestors; and Welsh storyteller Milly Jackdaw presents Mochyn Mryddin (Merlin’s Pig), a fusion of traditional storytelling, physical theatre, music and ceremony based on the life of Myrddin, the inspiration for Merlin in Arthurian legend.

Plus, there will be ceilidhs, tales told around the hearth, and poetry including singer/songwriter John Hinshelwood’s sensitive musical interpretations based on a selection of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

The Folk Film Gathering returns to Edinburgh Tradfest this year with a selection of films from around the world including the Scottish premiere of Songlines. This film celebrates the songs and singers at the heart of the Irish traveller community. The South African film Mapantsula features a petty gangster who becomes caught up in the growing anti-apartheid struggle of the late 1980s. There are two films from Ukraine – the silent masterpiece Earth (1930) directed by Alexander Dovzhenko and accompanied by Scottish musicians Luke Sutherland and Semay Lu, and Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors – a tale of crossed lovers introduced with a short concert from Edinburgh’s Ukrainian Choir. Later in the Festival there will be a screening of Tale Of The Three Jewels a film by Michel Khleifi, which tells the story of young Yussef living in Gaza and portrays the resilience and the horrors endured by Gaza’s children. This film will be introduced by Palestinian/Scottish poet Nada Shawa. There will also be a screening of Je’Vida the first ever film made in the Skolt Sámi dialect (only spoken by around 300 people today) about the bonds of ancestry and the resilience of indigenous peoples. Je’Vida will be introduced by music from Finnish musicians Lau Nau and Pekko Käppi, who produced the film’s score, and who will also perform a one-off concert at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Fri 10 May.

From Scotland there will be two films by Mike Alexander: Down Home and As An Eilean (From the Island); a premiere of Itu Ninu – an indigenous science fiction film shot in Edinburgh which tells the story of two climate migrants stuck within a dystopian ‘smart city’; and a screening of To See Ourselves, a moving portrait of grass roots organising during Scotland’s independence.

Plus, over at the Scottish Storytelling Centre there will be a screening of Journey To The Isles: Marjory Kennedy Fraser, an archive film with live accompaniment from storyteller Marion Kenny and multi-instrumentalist Mairi Campbell; and The First Wave by Kate Sweeney and Roma Yagnik accompanied by stories, songs, and reminiscences of living in a coastal town during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, from Berwickshire Coastal Arts.

For younger audiences there will be a Jaunt Round Auld Reekie told through music, comedy and puppetry performed in Scots and English by one of Edinburgh’s newest community theatre companies Ceilidh Crew; mask-making ahead of the May Day Parade; an arts and crafts storytelling session celebrating the magic of Beltane; and a Family Ceilidh. There will also be a book launch of Yum: written in Scots by author and storyteller Susi Briggs; and the opportunity to take part in the Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin (EYG) – a three day workshop programme supported by the William Grant Foundation. This traditional music workshop programme for 13-18 year olds will be led by some of Scotland’s finest musicians and culminates in an exclusive performance during Edinburgh Tradfest. In addition, there will be two taster workshops in April this year, for those new to being in the EYG Big Band and making music with others.

Other workshops held during the festival include traditional Zimbabwean singing with Bruce Ncube who specialises in teaching traditional songs from Zimbabwe in 3 to 6 part harmonies; Scottish dance and song traditions led by Evie Waddell; a fiddle workshop with renowned award-winning music educator Anna-Wendy Stevenson; and song-writing with renowned singer and composer Karine Polwart. Plus, the Traditional Music Forum will present an interactive and fun workshop for musicians who want to be better storytellers on stage, led by storyteller Svend-Erik Engh.

Returning this year is the festival’s popular Rebellious Truth lecture presented in collaboration with Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, which will feature a talk and performance by legendary folk musician and broadcaster Archie Fisher both in-person and live-streamed.

Plus, from 3 May until 15 June there will be a new exhibition FISHING: by Dutch artist Stephanïe Vandëm at the Scottish Storytelling Centre which combines oil painting and mixed media materials salvaged from the shoreline to creatively evoke the linkages between the communities of the North East of Scotland and their fishing heritage. The exhibition will open with a performance of songs from Doric harmony singers Tripple about the living heritage of fishing communities on Scotland’s east coast.

Speaking at today’s launch, Siobhan Anderson, Music Officer, Creative Scotland said:

“Edinburgh Tradfest continues to celebrate the city as a key part of Scottish traditional music year on year, nourishing Edinburgh’s musicians as well as their traditional music audience to ensure the capital can continue to be a place to see and experience some of the finest traditional music in Scotland. Alongside an appreciation and celebration of legends like Archie Fisher and Julie Fowlis, Edinburgh Tradfest also paves the way for the next generation of artists through the Edinburgh Youth Big Band and the ETF spotlight concert which will shine on four bright young acts. The packed programme has something for everyone and allows audiences to bask in a range of excellent artists.”

Douglas Robertson and Jane-Ann Purdy, co-producers of Edinburgh Tradfest said:

“We are thrilled with the 2024 line-up for Edinburgh Tradfest – surely the best yet. We’re particularly happy to welcome the Folk Film Gathering back into the fold for the first time since the pandemic. Now we really are back to full power! We are extremely fortunate to work with partners who have the same ethos as ourselves and work very hard to deliver world class events at an affordable ticket price. We want as many people as possible to enjoy the best traditional arts from Scotland and around the world. Please check out the full programme online, and we look forward to welcoming you in May.”

Daniel Abercrombie, Programme & Events Manager, Scottish Storytelling Centre said:

“Edinburgh Tradfest is a highlight of our calendar in the Scottish Storytelling Centre and we’re delighted to be involved once again. There are some excellent storytelling performances on offer and a variety of traditional arts activities, including many family events, for all to enjoy. The days will be getting longer and there is much to celebrate in this wonderful Tradfest programme!”

Jamie Chambers, Folk Film Gathering said:

“We are really excited to be back in step with our friends at Tradfest, to further explore the links between cinema and traditional arts from around the world. There is a lot of music in our programme (including a new score for the Ukrainian silent masterpiece EARTH from visionary Scottish composer Luke Sutherland, and a special appearance from Finland’s folk musicians Lau Nau and Pekko Käppi), and we think audiences will have great fun finding links between our programme and the exciting main body of events that Tradfest have put together.

Musician Phil Alexander from Triptic said:

“As a new band (formed of very old friends!) we are delighted to be a part of Tradfest, and especially pleased to be playing at the launch. Tradfest is a glorious and imaginative celebration of traditional music in all its diverse forms, and Triptic is proud to stake our claim within it!”

Edinburgh Tradfest 2024 will run from Friday 3 May – Monday 13 May. For tickets and more information visit edinburghtradfest.com