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Sunday 26 October 2014

Orkney International Storytelling Festival comes to Graemsay

In past years Tom Muir and Fran Flett Holinrake have visited Graemsay after the official Orkney storytelling festival is over to give us a special performance.  This year they included us in the actual festival!  So it was on Friday I went to meet the ferry from Stromness expecting a handful of folk to get off the boat, to be greeted with hoards of enthusiastic folk coming over for an afternoon of stories.  Well there were about 18 of them - that's hoards for Graemsay given our population is only 27.  Hee hee!

It was a calm day so at least they had a good sail across

Though I think they stepped onto the pier with some trepidation as the boat crew had explained there would be kye (cattle) to be shipped from Graemsay and had regaled them with tales so lurid they could hold their own at a storytelling session!  Needless to say the young stock on the pier were very peacable and caused no trouble!

Fortunately the weather was kind and so many of the visitors chose to wander up to the hall, while the storytellers got a lift up so they could set up banners, and the raffle and get settled.

Earlier various of the Graemsay folk have been preparing the hall, putting up decorations, making soup and butties (sandwiches),  and home bakes of course!  So lunch greeted folk as they arrived, together with, of course, the island folk.

I was going back and forth between the kitchen and the lunch table and caught snatches of conversation as visitors and island folk. Almost the entire population of Graemsay was there, and those that weren't were over in the town attending various appointments.  Graemsay always turns out to welcome visitors! It's one of the things I love about this community.

After lunch we settled down for the first story, told by Liz Weir from Northern Ireland.  She had a spooky ghost story for the children.  As you can see in the photo at the top of this post - the spiders also liked the story.  Liz even seems to be wearing one as a very fetching hat!  (Er - due to my camera skills or lack of, rather than actually wearing one!).

Next were a couple of stories from Ian Stephen, storyteller and poet from the Isle of Lewis.  He told stories of islands and isles folk, of hardship and triumph.

Then Orkney's Tom Muir told some stories of the Trowie Folk

 And Fran told a story of the blue door in Edinburgh, a request from one of the Graemsay children who had remembered the story from last year.  A story of ghosts and terror that had folk jumping out of their seats!

There was also time for tea and home bakes, and a raffle with some great prizes.  I won a lovely picture of the Hoy Hills.

Sadly soon it was time for everyone to leave.  The sun still shone so most folk walked back to the pier. Nobody needed to avail themselves of the Graemsay Self Drive Hire.....

 Meanwhile I gave Liz a quick tour of the island by car as she hadn't seen it before (Ian had arrived on an earlier ferry and walked around the island so he'd had a taste of the landscape already).  Liz and I chatted about islands and she compared Graemsay with Rathlin island, off the Northern Ireland coast.

The Graemsay folk really enjoyed the afternoon of stories, and meeting our visitors.  And there was even some cake left over for me to take home.  Result!  So thanks to all from the Orkney International Storytelling Festival for a great afternoon!


  1. It sounds wonderful, glad you had a good time (as well as cake)...

    1. Oh it was brilliant. Had a great time. And yes plenty of cake :-)

  2. I think the ancient tradition of storytelling is so important and so worthwhile continuing. I do watch TV but grew up listening to the 'wireless' (that word ages me!) and still do. It sounded like a lovely evening - especially with a cake finale!

    1. I love hearing stories. Always have done. Loved the TV programme "Jackanory". Oh yes I remember the Wireless too- Hahaha! And yes keeping the tradition of storytelling alive is really important. It's great in Orkney where new folk are learning to be storytellers too.

  3. How great is that. I love your little island and the wonderful things that take place there. This Story Telling is a fantastic idea. Would love to have been there. :)

    1. Oh it was a brilliant afternoon and you would have loved it!

  4. How fantastic to be hosting and not just visiting a story-telling session. I bet the visitors will never forget it. :) I love listening to stories and am a great fan of audio books and radio book and story readings.