Want entertainment in its purest form? Look no further than the Scottish Storytelling Centre (SSC) a creative hub off of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This bespoke building focuses mostly on spoken word performance, stripped of microphones and scripts. Bustling year-round, SSC is particularly busy in festival season.
Marketing and Communications Manager, Lindsay Corr said: “Each summer we become a venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and our tagline this year is ‘local talent, international context’. All our shows and performers are based in Scotland, many in Edinburgh, but all deal with international themes.”
These themes include migration, fake news and LGBT rights. SSC has broken ground by breaking down many of these issues for its younger audiences.
Corr explained: “One of our Fringe shows was At A Stretch – a phenomenal mime and movement piece – about two girls who fall in love and don’t really know what is happening. This show is targeted at ages six plus. At A Stretch is a kids friendly LGBT+ show; we think it’s important to cover diverse stories in a way that is accessible to children.”
Making narratives accessible to everyone is something that SSC is passionate about, as Corr said: “People can dip their toe into storytelling at our Café Voices events, which are running during the Fringe. These events are hosted by a storyteller, but are also open floor – meaning the audience doesn’t have to get up and narrate, but they are welcome to.”
This spirit of inclusion runs throughout SSC’s 17 Fringe shows, including Is this a Dagger – Andy Cannon’s historical analysis of Macbeth, (More) Moira Monologues – with Alan Bissett discussing Brexit and Indie Ref 2 from Scotland’s working class woman perspective – and The Loud Poets, who perform poetry for the masses, accompanied by a live band.
“The Loud Poets believe storytelling is for everyone and is something everyone can do – you don’t have to have gone to Oxford University to practice it and it doesn’t have to be pompous,” Corr said.
True to this sentiment, SSC has worked throughout its history with outreach programmes, bringing storytelling to disadvantaged groups.
Corr recalled: “Over the years the Scottish Storytelling Centre has had lots of outreach projects on the go; including Living Voices, which helped older and younger people find common ground amid the digital divide. The project taught older people digital skills and younger people the art of storytelling, to bring their two words together.”
Another project SSC undertook, in partnership with BSL:UPTAKE at Heriot-Watt University was Stories in the Air. In this project SSC worked with BSL interpreters, to boost their narrative skills and make storytelling more inclusive for deaf audiences.
Corr added: “We are also now running a sensory storytelling project for children with additional needs; The Story Kist creates a relaxed space with props that children can touch and smell while experiencing a story, which is run by two highly trained and interactive storytellers.”
A relaxed environment is key to any storytelling and it was this realisation that led to the founding of the SSC building.
Corr said: “The Scottish Storytelling Centre started life as part of an arts centre. Within this centre there was a group of storytellers that had been performing all over the country, but they wanted to have a stand-alone national hub that promoted storytelling, instead of it being an add-on in venues such as theatres.”
So after sourcing £3.5m, recruiting Malcolm Fraser Architects, and undergoing a five- year development, the SSC opened its doors on 6 June 2006.
“The SSC building is gorgeous,” Corr enthused.
“It’s the first purpose-built architectural frame for a centre of storytelling, which has been important in providing good acoustics that cater to different storytelling styles and flexible spaces for events,” she added.
To truly appreciate the Centre, Corr encouraged people to drop in.
She said: “The best way to understand what we do is to attend one of our events. Storytelling is entertainment in its purest form, without the barriers of technology, and we want to help people enjoy it.”