City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland On the Threshold: Discussions 1-7 Aug

By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 31 July 2013

Scotland on the Threshold

In association with TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland), and with a programme led by Mairi McFadyen and Donald Smith, the Scottish Storytelling Centre hosts a series of discussions and workshops during the first week of August that explore the culture, environment, arts and traditions of Scotland.

Scotland is in a time of change, whatever the outcome of the Independence Referendum, so TRACS have brought together a stellar selection of artists and academics – creating an enticing balance between artist experience and academic research – to delve below the rhetoric and explore Scotland, past and present.

Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, explains how the series came to being:
“The Centre hosted a run of events last summer – Themes and Traditions – under the July Folk Fest banner – and they were extremely popular and well-received. After receiving some helpful feedback, this changed the approach for this year’s sessions.

“From the feedback it was clear that people wanted to have a more concentrated programme, so we’ve put together this summer-school model, so people can either sign up to everything or take a pick n’ mix approach. We’ve also ensured the topics are a lot more focused and clear so you know exactly what will be discussed.

“It is also hoped that by moving these workshops into August, it will offer visitors to the city something very different to the events on offer elsewhere, giving them a distinctive experience of Scottish culture and tradition."

The Threshold series has two strands. Firstly, there is a collection of Overviews which aim to give people an overall picture of Scottish history, culture, language and its environment. Secondly, our Explorations events give people the chance to have a more in-depth look at a specific topic. These workshops also deal with topics that are often neglected, such as the environment, drama and religion and dance music. See the full titles below.

• Call the Box Office on 0131 556 9579
• Book online at
• Book in person at the Scottish Storytelling Centre (43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR)

Open: 10am – 6pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm – 6pm on Sundays during July and August.

If you are booking more than four of these events please call 0131 556 9579 to receive a 10% discount.

Overviews | Daily from 1pm – 1.50pm | £5 (£4)
Each session introduces you to a key area of interest, with an opportunity for questions and discussion. Together these sessions give you a rich picture of Scotland’s culture, past and present.

Thursday 1 Aug
Who are the Scots?
How people came to Scotland & a nation was made, with Donald Smith.

Friday 2 Aug
Scotland’s Environment
How the landscape has shaped Scotland’s culture &sense of itself, with Mairi McFadyen.

Saturday 3 Aug
Accents of the Mind
Languages & Poetry of Scotland with Donald Smith.

Sunday 4 Aug
Scotland’s Literary Renaissance
A modern literature reborn? with Donald Smith.

Monday 5 Aug
Seeing Scotland
The visual Arts and Scotland’s identities, with Mairi McFadyen.
Tuesday 6 Aug
Hearing Scotland
The people’s music – the instruments, the songs and the stories, with Dave Francis.

Wednesday 7 Aug
Contesting Scotland
Theatres of Change and debate with Donald Smith.

Explorations | Daily from 2.30pm – 4.30pm | £8 (£6)
These relaxed sessions take you on a journey into their rich topics with lots of practical examples and an opportunity for discussion and further exploration.

Thursday 1 Aug
The Power of Story – Stuart McHardy
From the point that we became human, story has been central. It is how we defined ourselves to ourselves; how we taught our children; how we remembered not just those who went before, but who we were. And stories were treasured and learned to be passed on to generations yet unborn. Stuart McHardy explores both the roots of story through Scotland’s unbroken traditions, and how the use of story has defined cultures and societies, passed knowledge and belief through untold generations, and how to this day story sits at the heart of the creative process for all arts.

Friday 2 Aug
Robert Burns and the National Music – Fred Freeman
This illustrated talk is designed to introduce a wholly unknown Robert Burns both to specialists and to the general public. For over 200 years Burns has been misrepresented as solely Scotland’s national ‘poet’, yet he was, primarily, a song-writer, composing upwards of 400 songs, and, in many respects, more of a ‘national’ artist . Much of the approach considers the artist’s background as a fiddler and folk musician: his innovative use of folk dance/instrumental forms (strathspeys, reels, jigs, slip jigs, hornpipes); his curious method of composition – always from the tune to the words; his seminal theory of ‘ballad simplicity’ which relates to language, form, rhythm, tonality and more.

Saturday 3 Aug
Poetry on the Ear and Tongue – David Campbell
From the time of the great Scottish Bards of the 15th century through to Burns and the present day, Scottish poetry has expressed its power and passion in the spoken words of the Scots language and dialects. This workshop will explore the joy and effectiveness of speaking the richness of our poetic heritage by finding the confidence in our own voices to make the words live in the air. In this way we will play and work with the dynamics of speech and make a journey through the work of notable Scottish poets, past and present. Participants are welcome to bring their own favourites.

Sunday 4 Aug
Traditions of Dance – Sheila McCutcheon
Country, ceilidh, reels and step dance, with Sheila McCutcheon. Scotland’s dance traditions are unrivalled in their diversity and richness yet little understood. Here a great dance teacher takes you through some background and key examples. Gentle participation for those who wish. Accessible to all.

Monday 5 Aug
Dance Music – Freeland Barbour
What about the music? Dance music is central to social and popular tradition in Scotland. Freeland Barbour, himself an acclaimed musician, takes you through, the musical background with lots of examples. This session is for musicians and non-musicians alike, but if you are involved in dance music bring your instrument. Guaranteed to set every toe tapping!

Tuesday 6 Aug
Gaelic and Scots Song – Patsy Seddon
National identity is defined in many ways but one typical avenue explored at various times in the past is to identify the nation’s song store. The great work of song collecting in Scotland began back in the 18th century after the 1707 union. Patsy Seddon who began singing nine months before the birth of her mother (as Kodály would have it!) has followed a path through Scots and Gaelic song learning clàrsach and fiddle on the way. She is best known for her work with the harp duo Sileas and the group The Poozies. In this workshop she will explore this wealth of song. Participants will be invited to sing along or listen in.

Wednesday 7 Aug
Drama and Religion – Donald Smith
The rich interface between religion and culture in Scotland is both ancient and contemporary. Ignoring passing storms of controversy, Donald Smith looks at underlying patterns that reveal both continuity and change. Is Scotland still a spiritual nation or was that always a national myth?