Whats On


Storylands Sessions

Do you want to get under the skin of the place? Meet real Highlanders celebrating their culture in authentic ways? Hear local tunes and tales, have a conversation over a drink, be a part of it, rather than just watching it? Then you belong at the Storylands Sessions!


The Stories

The Sessions are a series of music and storytelling events in Badenoch hosted by musician, Hamish Napier , and writer, Merryn Glover. Deeply rooted in the community, they are also wide open to visitors. We get our name from Badenoch The Storylands, this secret treasure of a place nestled in the green valley between the mountain ranges of the Cairngorms and the Monadhliath. Badenoch brims with history, legend and myth, from its silent standing stones, through the battles of the Picts, clan strongholds and Jacobite rebellions. All these stories live on in the castle ruins and the still-used chapels, the shaping of the landscape and the return of the Caledonian forest, the rutting stag and the skydancing osprey.  And they live in the memories, the voices and the music of the people. They live at the Sessions.


“There is such a welcoming, traditional ceilidh atmosphere, this is something every community should have.
Storyland Session Participant

Sessions every month

On the second Tuesday of every month, locals and visitors gather at the Ptarmigan Dome, Loch Insh, to share songs, tunes, stories and poetry at two back-to-back open mics: the Early Show and the Late Show. The music includes both Highland bagpipes and the small, bellows-blown Border pipes. We have folks on fiddles, whistles, flutes, guitars, piano and clarsach, playing everything from well-kent, sing-along favourites to old and rare Speyside tunes, revived for the first time. The great stories from the area feature, too, with their wealthy lairds and wily crofters, shape-shifting witches and deer-loving faeries, as well as the poetry and memoirs of our historic chroniclers, from gamekeepers to Queen Victoria.

We are proud to have Gaelic voices at the Sessions, including our local tradition-bearer, Seumas Grannd, and the internationally celebrated Comhlan Luadh Bhàideanach – the Badenoch Waulking Group – women who sing traditional Gaelic songs, especially the rhythmic tunes for working the tweed. Another Sessions member has led us in a Gaelic blessing song to close the night.


All about community

But the Sessions are not just about the past or about Scotland. Although traditional Highland culture is the ground of our gatherings, it is a fertile and generous soil that gives rise to an ever-changing crop. Our musicians are just as likely to share the blues, contemporary folk or indie hits, and we’ve even had a Disney anthem. Most nights we have original compositions, both from the professionals in our midst, right down to the school kids. The spoken element is varied, too, with stories and poetry spanning pre-historic myth to personal memoir and poems scribbled that morning. We are proud of the diversity of the Sessions, with contributors and audience spanning ages, beliefs, ethnic heritages and walks of life. We’ve had tales from India, folk song from China, Gaelic from Canada and so much more. Our Sessions family ranges from pre-school kids to seniors in their 90s, all taking part, sitting together, helping out and chatting over the heartening beverages and biscuits that fuel every event.

Because, ultimately, the Sessions are much more than perfomance; they are community. Undoubtedly, some of the items are polished works from accomplished musicians. But others are the first time on stage for a child, or the first poetry reading for an old man. All of them get thunderous applause; all of them are equally important. And, actually, it is that magical mix of ages, experience and characters that makes the Sessions an authentic Highand experience. Because the traditional ceilidh was always a gathering in the home where everyone was encouraged to do a wee turn – a song, a tune, a story, a poem, a dance. The Sessions are founded on the belief that everyone can make art and all the better when we make it together. Even the audience is part of that making.


Open mic nights

On open mic nights, our Early Show doors open at 5.30 for a 6-7pm session. It’s a relaxed, family-friendly event with lots of joining in and support for younger performers. We regularly welcome some of the more senior members of the community to that Show, as well, through partnerships with Badenoch & Strathspey Community ConnXions  and Badenoch Shinty Memories.

The Late Show doors open at 7.30 for an 8-10.14 session. This one is programmed for adults, though youngsters do attend and perform. This Show begins with a Special Guest from the Cairngorms area sharing about their life and work as creatives, adventurers, land-based workers, wildlife guides or other cultural voices. The Guest inspires our theme for the night, which weaves together all the performance items. Themes have included Water, Colours, The Woods, Love and Tempest and we enjoy broad interpretation. 

A truly inter-generational night of entertainment put on in a warm and intimate venue in the heart of Badenoch. Thank you.
Storyland Session Participant

Workshops

For anyone seeking courage and skills to do a turn, Storylands Sessions offers workshops in music and word, both in person and online. Merryn runs a series on Storytelling and Poetry for Performance in the first week of the month, while Hamish runs a folk music course in the third week. Both classes are open to newcomers and people of all experience.

The Sessions are reknowned for their hospitality. To welcome the stranger at the hearth is an ancient Highland value and we are delighted by the range of visitors from all over the world who have become one of us.


About Hamish & Merryn

This wide embrace was always the vision of co-hosts Hamish and Merryn, who bring diversity through their own stories. Hamish was born and brought up in Speyside, always steeped in traditional Scottish music and now one of its most exciting voices, developing a pentalogy of albums that celebrate the Cairngorms area.   The three releases so far, The Railway, The River and The Woods, have won popular and critical acclaim. Merryn is Australian, born and brought up in South Asia, and her writing often explores themes of place, identity, culture and belonging. Her first novel, A House Called Askival, is set in North India, her second, Of Stone and Sky, in Badenoch, and her recent book The Hidden Fires: A Cairngorms Journey with Nan Shepherd is her response to the classic of nature writing, The Living Mountain.

All the information about Storylands Sessions open mics and workshops can be found on our Eventbrite collection here . Be warned, though! The open mic shows get sold out weeks ahead, so book early! And when you do, why not make a special night of it by booking a meal right beside our venue at the Boathouse Restaurant , with its stunning view across Loch Insh? They even offer a Storylands Special Supper! 

Merryn always makes participants feel so welcome and opens up such a safe space to explore, have fun and get those creative juices flowing no matter who you are or how much or little experience you have.

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