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The 16th Scottish International Storytelling Festival is being launched in Edinburgh next Friday with an Israeli-Palestinian artistic collaboration for peace on the frontiers of war.

"Weaving", at St Cecilia's Hall in the Cowgate, brings together Israeli storyteller Shai Schwartz and Palestinian musician George Samaan for an evening of Jewish and Arab folk tales of hope, hurt and conflict resolution, interwoven with anecdotes from Schwartz's life in the only Jewish-Palestinian collective village in Israel, Neve ShalomWahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace).

Schwartz, the educational director of the Israeli Children's Museum of Holon, works with refugees and victims of conflict around the world, using stories as part of the healing process.

On Saturday night, he and Samaan will be joined by Egyptian storyteller Chirine al Ansary at the same venue.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, at Sandeman House, off the High Street, Schwartz will discuss his experiences of working on the frontiers of conflict and healing.

The 10-day festival, in Edinburgh, Lothian and the Borders, celebrates folk and fairy tales from home and around the world, this year taking a special look at Middle Eastern stories and at the work of Hans Christian Andersen, 2005 being the 200th anniversary of his birth.

"A lot of people will know only the negative side of the Middle East and not the riches of its culture," says the festival director, Joanna Bremner.

"What we are offering is both topical and positive, as well as favourites like Tales from the Arabian Nights."

On Monday, "At the Heart of the School" is a day of professional development at Sandeman House, focusing on best practice for those working with P3s to P7s, looking at transitions, festivals and celebrations, creative and critical thinking, imagination and personal and social development. (There are a few places available.) The Scottish Storytelling Centre works all year round with pupils, parents and teachers across the country, providing workshops including peer sessions where S5 and S6 pupils adapt andor create their own stories which they then take to primary schools. Primary pupils can follow a similar path down to nursery schools. Next year's CPD opportunities begin on April 1, with a session on storytelling step-by-step and include others on street songs, games and rhymes, using props and puppets, storybags and storyboxes.

"Storytelling can be used across the curriculum to develop listening and talking skills, personal and social development, creative writing, history and as a pleasure during circle time," says Ms Bremner.

"It can be a stealthy way into reading and writing using storyboards and props."

The centre also does specialised work in secure units, as a safe way to explore difficult issues.

On national Tell A Story Day, October 28, a debate on "Do fairy tales damage your health?" will take place at the Edinburgh Filmhouse following the first Scottish screening of Mihail Badica's The Tinderbox. Panellists will discuss the diet of murder, incest and abandonment in fairy tales and ask "What are they really about anyway?"

There will also be story events in libraries, pubs, sports centres, glasshouses, shops, closes, museums, theatres, castles, church halls, community and arts centres from Linlithgow to Eyemouth, Selkirk to South Leith. There are even stories being brewed in Brownsbank, Hugh MacDiarmid's cottage near Biggar. One can but wonder what the old man would have made of that ...

Scottish Storytelling Centre, tel 0131 556

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