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New chapter in art of storytelling;Curriculum

Raymond Ross on two Lottery-funded training initiatives

A national bursary and an Edinburgh-based training scheme for aspiring storytellers using Gaelic, Scots or community languages have been set up by the Scottish Storytelling Centre, with the help of the Scottish Arts Council.

The bursary is aimed at up-and-coming storytellers who use Gaelic or Scots and have some experience and the training scheme will encourage new storytellers fluent in community languages and English, by linking both groups with experienced storytellers and offering them a study programme.

Five community language storytellers will receive grants of pound;300 each and six weeks' training, while trainee storytellers will get pound;2,400 to cover travel and living costs during 12 weeks of intensive training.

"There are relatively few ethnic minority storytellers in the public domain," says Joanna Bremner of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. "But there are very strong traditions of storytelling in Edinburgh's ethnic communities and the response from them so far has been extremely encouraging.

"Libraries and schools have expressed a real need for storytellers who are informed about and can bring alive the celebrations of festivals such as the Jewish Hanukkah or Hindu Diwali, as well as the other festivals of light like the Celtic New Year.

"The intention is that these new storytellers will go into schools, community venues and libraries to take part in and promote understanding of such festivals."

Community languages storytellers should be fluent in include Mandarin and Cantonese, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and Bengali.

"If you look back to the marriage of the indigenous Picts and the Scots from Ireland, the Norse and the Norman French, it's apparent that ethnic diversity was built in from the beginning as part of Scotland's cultural heritage, and the work we are doing can actually be viewed as part of a historical continuum. There always have been new Scots," said Ms Bremner.

"Storytelling is part of a lifelong learning process which develops the imagination of both tellers and listeners. It is community art at its best and a great way of promoting respect and understanding."

Both schemes are part of a national initiative for training storytellers, backed by the Scottish Arts Council's National Lottery fund.

Apply to Joanna Bremner, Scottish Storytelling Centre, tel 0131 557 5724, by Jan 6 for the community languages scheme or Jan 30 for a national grant

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