This autumn, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) takes audiences on a voyage, exploring Scotland’s coasts and water through music and storytelling. The programme for the 2020 Scottish International Storytelling Festival was In the Flow, which was an eclectic mix of online events spanning across the globe and small-scale face-to-face events, celebrating Scotland ‘a nation shaped by the sea’. One of these events was performed by Apphia Campbell and Mara Menzies, who spoke with The Fountain about her involvement with the SISF and some of her personal highlights.

TF: You are involved with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival this year; can you tell us more about that involvement?

The Storytelling Festival is this wonderful feast of stories from around the world and with the theme of In the Flow, where Scotland has been shaped by water, it seemed fitting that Apphia Campbell and myself create a story about Nanny, Queen of the Maroons. The transatlantic slave trade was this horrific system of trade, perfect in its objective of maximising profit regardless of the cost. Goods from Britain sailed to the African coast, the ships then took their human cargo to the New World and then returned with sugar and cotton back to the UK. Vast profits were made at every step of the journey, but it was accompanied by incredible misery and cruelty to those with no power and Scotland was complicit at every stage.

TF: What inspired you to bring this project there?

The Storytelling Festival actually approached me to create a story but gave me free reign as to what that story would look like. I approached Apphia Campbell as she is a phenomenal performer and I just thought her performing and musical experience, particularly with song, would really enhance the story. We decided that rather than focusing on the horrors of the slave passage and Scotland’s role in slavery, it would be more interesting for us to tell the story of Nanny, a phenomenal woman who has achieved near mythical status in Jamaica as a warrior, military leader and a woman who put fear into the hearts of the majority Scottish owned plantation owners by freeing the enslaved people from the plantations. Many people do not realise that there are many stories of resistance. African people did not simply accept their fate. There was incredible struggle and much of the violence towards black people was because they did fight back.

TF: What is your connection to SISF, and are there any programme highlights that you would mention for people to keep an eye out for?

I’m looking forward to the wonderful Fiona Herbert with her stories of Corryvreckan through the eyes of the ancient Goddess of Creation Cailleach. Spirit of the Mountains by Heather Yule and Beverly Bryant celebrates female spirits, goddesses and giants.

The Open Hearth is very exciting. Fellow Kenyans Wangari Grace and John Titi Namai are here for the first time. Baba the Storyteller I met a few years ago in Los Angeles and is a beautiful storyteller so I am thrilled to be a programme with him, Sue Hollingsworth (England) and Sahand Sahebdivani from Iran/Netherlands. The Global Lab is also such an enriching platform for exploring issues that affect our world and doing that with stories at the heart is very exciting!

TF: What is your plan for the remainder of the year, after this performance?

I am delighted to be creating a brand new family Christmas story with the Lyceum Theatre. It is a mad ride across the sky and involves danger, disaster and dung beetles! We will be playing with shadows and it will be great fun! I am also looking forward to taking a break as it has been quite full on of late and a rest would be very much appreciated.

Photo courtesy of Kavion Robinson

SISF is now over for the year but you can replay the events until 13th November via this link