All of these events share one common mission: to use storytelling as a way to encourage world change. No matter our culture, we all have telling experiences that contribute to our identities. How many of our stories are similar to those of our national and international neighbors?
Each of these festivals aims to prove that we are not so different. We all experience love, pain, loss, and joy in an infinite number of ways. Storytelling is the oldest form of historical preservation, of self-expression, and it remains an art form around the world.
Here are five major international storytelling festivals worth checking over the next year.
1. National Storytelling Festival, Jonesborough, Tennessee, USA
Background: Organized by the International Storytelling Center, this fest has been taking place since the early ’70s. According to the website, it was the first recognized, public event of its kind in the entire world, and stemmed from a local teacher’s tradition of rolling an old farm wagon into the town square and gathering around it with his neighbors to tell stories. Now the fest has grown into a “cultural movement” and takes place on a three-acre, dedicated downtown campus.
When: October 3-5, 2014
2. Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, Orem, Utah, USA
Background: For 25 years and counting, both national and international storytellers have been gathering in this small Utah city at the foot of the mountain that gives the event its name. This fest has just as many musical performers as oral performers and claims that it could be called a “music festival if it wasn’t for all the stories!” Alongside the musical acts, there’s also pottery workshops and children’s activities.
When: August 27-30, 2014
3. FEST Annual Conference, rotating European venues
Background: The Federation of European Storytellers has been holding an annual conference since 2001, when a project in Paris brought together 15 different storytellers, one to represent every European Union country at the time. The shared experiences and stories of the representatives are said to have made groundbreaking moves in building powerful relations across borders. Since then, the conference has expanded and been hosted in countries such as Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain. This past year it was held for the first time in Sweden.
When: 2015 dates to be announced
4. Scottish International Storytelling Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Background: This fest operates under a different chosen theme each year and celebrates Scottish heritage with traditional dances, landscape tours, and theatrical performances. The 2014 theme is “Seeing Stories” and is aimed at celebrating connected humanity by gazing “into the future through the dreams, imaginings and visions of the poets and bards.”
When: October 24 – November 2, 2014, with its final weekend falling on the ancient Celtic New Year — Samhainn/Hallowe’en.
5. Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada Annual Conference, Levis, Quebec, Canada
Background: The SC-CC describes storytelling as an “integral” part of Canadian culture. This conference is hosted in a different part of the country each year. Last year, it took place on Prince Edward Island to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference. The SC-CC annually names a “Storykeeper,” a person who has devoted their life’s work to mentoring, telling, and preserving Canadian stories.
When: July 2-5, 2015