PORTOBELLO Promenade will be taken over by a sea of fiddlers, Arthur’s Seat will become a visual prop in an interactive storytelling experience and the Capital’s pubs will become a centre for all things folk – welcome to the first ever TradFest.
Running over 12 days starting from April 24, the new festival is a celebration of a range of traditional Scottish arts, from music and dance, to storytelling, drama and crafts, and is timed to mark the official start of summer.
TradFest will encompass the annual Beltane Fire Festival, which also celebrates the start of the summer months, and takes place on April 30 on Calton Hill. A total of 80 events will be held across the city as part of the new festival, which is hoped will become a permanent fixture in Edinburgh’s busy festival calendar.
A host of venues, organisations and individuals have been involved in curating events which take place in a wide variety of locations, including Teviot Row House, The Pleasance, Queen’s Hall, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Dance Base, Greyfriars Kirk, Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill and Portobello Promenade.
While Tradfest is inspired by previous festivals, including Ceilidh Culture, the Edinburgh People’s Festival and the Edinburgh International Folk Festival, it is designed to offer a programme suited to all tastes.
TradFest ticks all the boxes in terms of a traditional folk festival with a range of music and song from “bothy nichts” traditions to the contemporary interpretations of Karine Polwart or Alasdair Roberts, and from Nordic Fiddlers Bloc to Shooglenifty.
But the inclusion of various dance events, folk drama, storytelling sessions, and the environmental happenings on Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat and Portobello Prom make TradFest different to the norm.
One of the organisers, Donald Smith, who is director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, explains: “There has been in the past a number of Edinburgh folk festivals, and more recently, the Ceilidh Culture festival.
“There was a general feeling amongst the organisations and musicians and artists involved that we could do a bit more. That’s not a criticism of anything that came before, but traditional arts could do with more of a celebration.
“Most of these festivals have been only about folk music, but this is about music and song, dance, folk drama, storytelling and about environmental events out and about in the city.
“It’s quite different from any existing thing as we are also celebrating Edinburgh as a place and bringing out all different aspects of the life and culture of the city.”
Part of the celebration of “the life and culture of the city” is Portobello Fun Fiddle’s music train along the prom on May 6. They will be joined by Pathhead street band KaBoodle, and fiddle-playing members of the public are invited to get involved. To join in, simply learn Guid Pals and head down to the beach with your fiddle.
Donald is also hosting one of the outdoor events, which takes place on May 1 at Arthur’s Seat. As the co-author of Arthur’s Seat: Journeys and Evocations, Donald will be leading a “gentle ascent” to the summit, leaving at 5am, so he can share his fascinating stories of one of the Capital’s best-known landmarks with his audience as they experience the surroundings featured in the book.
“Edinburgh is a very historical city,” says Donald, “but as part of that, it’s also full of green spaces and is a city by the sea, so that’s why we are taking advantage of that.
“This is the pilot festival so there is a sense of ‘can we make a go of this?’ We have had a good response and tickets are selling. If this goes well, it should become a regular slot in Edinburgh’s festival calendar.”
• TradFest runs from April 24 to May 6. Tickets are on sale now and full details of events are at www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk/tradfest