Festival of Folklore Enjoys International Success!

Mostly Ghostly Team by Jayne Murdoch

The Festival of Folklore enjoyed a successful second outing last week, welcoming a truly international audience. In addition to fantastic support from Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland and the U.K. as a whole, the Festival team reported that the new virtual formal had been a game-changer in terms of highlighting the region to many parts of the world. Festival of Folklore is the brainchild of award-winning storytellers, Mostly Ghostly Tours, an exciting community collaboration, supported by the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership.

Festival and Mostly Ghostly Founder, Kathleen Cronie explains more:

“We’re on a massive high after this year’s Festival of Folklore, and were encouraged by the diverse range of visitors. Having looked at the data, it was eye-opening to discover the Festival had reached guests in Australia, the United States, Brazil, Canada and Iceland, to name but few. In light of Covid-19, we had to adapt to ensure the Festival’s continued success and development, and given the challenges, this has highlighted huge potential in reaching audiences further afield. Our hope, is that when brighter days return, the Festival will play a key role in welcoming visitors to our region, either in person, or from afar, to discover its many delights.” Mostly Ghostly, who specialise in exploring the darker side of history, are proud partners in the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership, who together, have been exploring ways to support community led tourism development.

Rose Murdoch, Chair of the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership, said: “The Festival of Folklore 2020 has exceeded all our expectations – from Mostly Ghostly and all the contributors who took on board the challenge of delivering an online Festival with enthusiasm and professionalism to audiences from around the globe. As a result of delivering an online Festival, we now have a library of stories, poems, music and virtual tours to showcase the magic, myth, natural beauty, history and heritage that will live on beyond the Festival. We have also reached new people, who we hope may wish to visit the area in person in the future, and experience all that Upper Nithsdale has to offer.”

Featuring over 20 events comprising storytelling, musical performances, presentations and historical insights, much of the Festival focused on its spiritual home in Upper Nithsdale.

Kathleen said:

“One of our key aims was to ensure Upper Nithsdale was well represented, in terms of content and talented contributors, each presenting their unique perspective on the area and of course, participants. Raising the area’s profile, safely, is key, and we’re delighted that people from across the world had the opportunity to experience its colourful tapestry of hidden history, curious legends and haunting tales. We’re also heartened to hear of contributors being approached and thanked by strangers, and the word on the street is, that Upper Nithsdale was buzzing!”

Opening the Festival, was local lad, Hector McQuarrie-Parkes, whose skill and passion came across with every note plucked on his harp. Hector’s joy-filled music provided the perfect antidote to today’s challenges. Young author, Lily Owens, also made a powerful impact, with her beautiful reading of Home Sweet Home, a story she wrote inspired by the iconic Sanquhar knitting pattern. It was a real family affair, as Christine Owens, Lily’s mother, stepped up to the bar with her lively new song – Coven Clan – showcasing her beautiful voice and songwriting skills. David Branton, chairman of the Kirkconnel Parish Heritage Society, presented some of his own lockdown stories, evoking his love of Upper Nithsdale and the supernatural.

The Mostly Ghostly team, explored Upper Nithsdale’s fascinating folklore, with a collection of storytelling videos, designed to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. Their tales, recorded in the early 20 th century by folklorist William Wilson, featured witches, murder, betrayal and souls that refused to rest.

Festival Team Member John Hill said:

“We loved getting out and about filming in Sanquhar, Crawick and Kirkconnel, bringing a taste of this stunning area to online viewers, with the hope of inspiring them to learn about the local area, and visit, when it is safe to do so. We are so proud of everyone who took part, and the Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Development Trust did a super job with their volunteer led event ‘A Walk wi’ the Miller’s Wife, harking back to bygone days and waterways.”

Dr. Peter Hewitt, explored the history and customs of St. Brides Well in Sanquhar, as part of his live Zoom event – Holy Wells and Springs of Dumfries and Galloway. Guests discovered that on May Day, the young girls of Sanquhar would visit, and in honour of the Saint, cast white pebbles into the well. This ancient site is believed be covered by the railway. Peter invited anyone with local knowledge to get in touch with more information.

The Festival climax showcased a heart-warming storytelling collaboration – The Sanquhar Fairies – between Mostly Ghostly’s Mary Wood, as Old Mother Mary, and Heather Molloy, a multi-sensory storyteller, author and teacher. The team feel passionately about developing inclusive aspects into the Festival.

Maureen Philip of PAMIS (Promoting A More Inclusive Society) described it as: “An absolutely astounding festival packed with lots of amazing stories. I loved the fact it included a multisensory story too, so people with profound and multiple learning disabilities could join in. Loved it all. Well done to everyone.”

Marketing consultant, Lorna Young, who has been supporting the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership, said:

“In the most challenging of circumstances the Festival of Folklore team have delivered a rich and engaging programme that connected people all over the world with the fascinating heritage and beautiful landscapes of Upper Nithsdale. The community led approach to tourism and event development that Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership has adopted, highlights the power of this approach. By identifying and bringing to life unique stories of people and place, and making these experiences accessible to a wider audience, the Festival is showcasing the very best of this inspiring part of Scotland.”  Summing up, Kathleen said:

“We’d like to thank all the amazing people who supported the 2020 Festival of Folklore, our contributors, supporters and stakeholders. We value every single person who has shown interest, be it through attending events, sharing posts on social media, making enquiries or simply wishing us well, they are all part of this wonderful story. We’ve already been approached by people who’d like to get involved next year – the momentum is growing – and the love of folklore, myth and magic is clear to see. We are keen to capture this interest and do something positive, and creative, to help promote our local area.”