Tradfest 2017


Edinburgh’s spring folk festival is nearly upon us. We pick through some highlights.

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Scotland’s trad and folk scene likes a good festival. Don’t we all!? Glasgow’s Celtic Connections is always a bright start to the New Year, but as spring arrives the focus shifts across the central belt to Edinburgh and to TradFest, the multi-disciplinary festival of all things roots, run by TRACS, the folk arts alliance based at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The fifth full edition of the Festival (it was first piloted in 2012) features 131 events across 34 different venues, from the Storytelling Centre itself to Leith’s Biscuit Factory to windy Calton Hill. It runs from Wednesday 26 April to Sunday 7 May.

The programme has several strands. Many people’s eyes will automatically be drawn to the music at Summerhall, programmed by Soundhouse (who also do the Traverse’s regular Monday night gigs) and Edinburgh Folk Club. Karine Polwart reunites with her old Malinky bandmate Steve Byrne on 1 May for The Flooers o’ May, a fundraiser for the Scots Music Group. Joining them on the bill are Adam Sutherland and Mairi Campbell, whose show Pulse was such a hit at last year’s Fringe. Dallahan have also been well reviewed on these pages, and they play Summerhall the following night. Dean Owens and Amy Geddes team up for Redwood Mountain: Transatlantic Crossings, an exploration of the folk songs collected by archivist Alan Lomax on 27 April. Also worth a look.

The Storytelling Centre itself focuses on “Local Cultures”, which encompasses Arabic Song for Beginners and Ghanaian dance and drumming as well as traditional storytelling and music from closer to home, like Kati Waitzmann’s Heroes of Independence, the tale of one stormy Scottish night in 1286…

A new strand for this year, The People’s Heritage, will see storytellers popping up around town to fill in the backstories of some of Edinburgh’s iconic locations. Events are free, unticketed and take place at sites like the Tron Kirk, Grassmarket and Royal Botanic Gardens. And, as ever, The Royal Oak and Sandy Bell’s will be packed to the rafters for folk sessions throughout the festival’s run.

Everything kicks off with Bagpipes Gu Leòr at the Queen’s Hall on 26 April, a show celebrating the renaissance in Scotland’s piping culture, curated by Hamish Moore and featuring, amongst others, the Savage Prunes.

TradFest takes place at venues across Edinburgh from Wednesday 26 April to Sunday 7 May 2017. Full details are available on the Scottish Storytelling Centre website.