Media Release: Storytelling Centre celebrates fifth birthday with book launch of storytelling legend


“Five fabulous years – it’s just flown by – but the possibilities for this artform are endless and there’s lots more to come.” Donald Smith, Scottish Storytelling Centre director

On 1 June 2006 the Scottish Storytelling Centre officially opened its doors to the public, welcoming all ages and walks of life into a hub of activity for all things storytelling. The Centre has helped give voice to Scotland’s cultures from the grassroots up, believing that there is no better pleasure than the power of the spoken word taking listeners on a journey of the imagination.

Five years on, the Centre is delivering by putting Scotland at the international forefront of storytelling arts, as Esther Blackburn, National Storytelling co-ordinator, explains: “Storytelling’s been around for as long as people have communicated. What we’re doing at the Centre celebrates this, and showcases just how vital and vibrant storytelling is today as a modern-day artform for contemporary society.

“Since the Centre opened its doors in 2006, we’ve be delighted with the enthusiasm and creativity with which storytelling has been received. The Centre team have brought storytelling to the national and international stage, with critically acclaimed Festival fringe storytelling programmes, an annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, recognised as part of Edinburgh’s outstanding festivals offering, and numerous international exchanges as well as a rich programme of year round events and our increasingly popular storytelling training and development programme, which provide unique chances to explore how stories and storytelling are relevant to work, personal development or creative practice.

“We’ve seen huge growth in national activity, with over 125 professional storytellers all over Scotland now contributing to performances, festivals, campaigns and community events, activity in schools and libraries, and powerful projects in health and wellbeing settings.

“The stories they share and the opportunities they give audiences and communities to tell their own stories, and their creative approach to exploring the links between storytelling and other artforms, mean storytelling is increasingly recognised as a valuable, rich strand of Scotland’s culture and heritage.”

“Storytelling is the cornerstone of literacy and it is no surprise that storytelling is enjoying a revival of popularity in the UK, as well as increasing connections with international storytelling societies through the development of FEST (Federation for European Storytelling). To celebrate five years of storytelling advocacy, the Centre can think of no better way to celebrate than by hosting an evening of traditional Scottish hearthside tales and music, dedicated to the late, great storyteller, Duncan Williamson.”

Fri 10 June, 6pm (Book launch), 7pm (Performance), £6/£4
A Traveller in Two Worlds

Join us in celebrating the 5th birthday of the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a special celebration of ‘A Traveller in Two Worlds’, a new book about Duncan Williamson.

”Duncan Williamson, the most extraordinary tradition-bearer of the whole Traveller tribe” (Hamish Henderson, Penguin, 1987)

Duncan Williamson died on November 8, 2007, aged 79 and was highly regarded as one of the best tradition bearing storytellers that ever lived. Duncan Williamson was born to a travelling family, “under a tree” as he told it, on the shores of Loch Fyne, near Furnace, Argyll, in 1928. Life in a Traveller’s tent with 15 brothers and sisters was hard but it was this upbringing and the surrounding communities of pipers, ballad singers and storytellers, especially those passed on from his wee granny, Belle, that were to drive his entire life.

Duncan Williamson – tinker Traveller born in a tent – and David Campbell – Honours University Graduate, teacher, BBC radio producer, writer and poet – formed a unique odd couple relationship travelling the world as Scottish story ambassadors. Campbell uses his astute knowledge to open the door to Williamson’s captivating ‘other’ world crammed with anecdotes, folklore and memories.

Their turbulent friendship and Duncan’s Huckleberry Finn-ish stories of his life form the fascinating twin narratives of ‘A Traveller in Two Worlds’ and the meeting of these two worlds makes for a powerful, unique and eventful tale. The tales of Duncan Williamson are charmingly transcribed, using authentic tape recordings, in easily comprehensible Scottish vernacular. Interspersed among the tales are riddles, poems and memoirs from those who knew Williamson. The book is published by Luath Press.

The performance accompanying the launch of the book presents personal memories, songs and stories from the lore and life of the colourful Duncan. David will be joined in performance by Linda Williamson. Linda is a talented musician and through her marriage to Duncan has become a brilliant traditional storyteller and singer. When she met Duncan as an American student in the 70s, they went on to marry and through living with him in the Traveller’s tent, she recognised his genius and vast repertoire of stories, instigating the publication of his stories that propelled him into the non-traveller world to become “a national treasure; a walking story bursting with song” (Glasgow Herald, 1985).

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Contact: Lindsay Corr
Phone: 0131 652 3272