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As a performer, weathering a pandemic has its challenges, help me film Scuttlebutt Stories on SS Explorer to celebrate Leith's Scandi links!

by Jan Bee Brown Storyteller in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Once Upon a Time...

A lass came to live in Leith and trained to be a professional storyteller at The Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. My name is Jan Bee Brown and I love living by the sea so I've been collecting nautical stories that link Leith and Scandinavia and now I'm creating Scuttlebutt Stories a performance of tall tales, sea shanties and Scandinavian strings to share Leith's maritime story.

Leith's Nautical Links?

Leith's seafaring Scandinavian links are the bedrock of North Edinburgh's exciting multicultural identity. From timber and to whaling we've been building ships and trading in Scandinavian waters for hundreds of years.

Did you know that in the 1860s over 3500 Scandinavian sailors visited Leith every year?  I want to bring a smorgasbord of Nordic stories and tall tales back to Leith with the help of musician Toby Hawks of Musica Nordica.

Toby and I set up The Dreadnought Shanty Crew in January this year and despite two hurricanes and lockdown, we are still singing (virtually) every Tuesday night sharing sea shanties and stories of Leith with an international crew. 

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Scuttlebutt Stories has been chosen to be part of the live and local offer by the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and we hope to perform on 18th October 2020. Keeping a close eye on COVID restrictions, we hope to be allowed to perform two socially distanced 50 - minute shows at Padlox on Bernard Street. This is the perfect historic venue - as it was the office of the Nordic whaling, transport and logistics firm Christian Salvesen. However, to share the love of Leith with a larger and international audience we'd like to ask local filmmaker Ray Bird at RareBird Media to film us singing sea shanties and sharing stories on SS Explorer, the historic research vessel in Leith Docks. 

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Why Leith?

I have been working on community projects in Leith for the past 5 years and there are so many amazing stories to tell, including the story of 'The Kobenhavn' the tallest tall ship ever built in Leith that now features in a mural on Custom House! There are some real characters in Leith and that's not a recent thing! I'll be sharing stories of Lucky-Duck Meg alongside piratical patriot John Paul Jones who had his eyes on Leith as a prize! 

Leith's motto is 'Persevere' and in 2018 I shared stories and songs with Norwegian male-voice choir Trass and Newhaven Community Choir at Leith Dockers Club. Leith's amazing community spirit and tenacity is a testament to our positive outlook, so it's time to share our nautical history and celebrate our links with Scandinavia.

Jan Bee Brown with Newhaven Community Choir at Leith Dockers Club for TradFest 2018

Scuttlebutt Stories?

The 'scuttlebutt' was the barrel of water on the deck of a Tall Ship, where the crew traditionally met to share stories and songs. As a professional storyteller and keen shanty singer, I am passionate about the ocean and ecology.  Living in Leith, Edinburgh I am proud of our maritime heritage, I'm a keen coastal rower and in 2019 I volunteered with the Jubilee Sailing Trust to enable a mixed ability crew to sail on a Tall Ship telling tales on ten Tall ships during The Tall Ship's race in Norway.

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Dreadnought and Sing! 

Toby and I have been sharing sea shanties and stories of courage and tenacity at sea since we set up The Dreadnought Shanty Crew in January, to get the local community singing shanties in the local pub. A sea shanty, with its simple call and response, is a great way to introduce folk of all ages to the joys of singing together, and it is true what sailors say... that a singing ship is a happy ship! We'd like the local crew to join us on the dockside when we film Scuttlebutt Stories.

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2020 is The Year of Scottish Coasts and Waters and so SS Explorer, a steam trawler built as a Scottish Research Vessel, is a perfect venue for Scuttlebutt Stories. Filmmaker Ray Bird loves it too and we hope that filming some Scuttlebutt Stories and shanties aboard will give SS Explorer some much-deserved publicity.

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Scuttlebutt Stories is all set to become a family-friendly virtual story and shanty takeaway tailored to Leith's nautical past. Let's talk 'Blue Sky Thinking'...in 2021 we'd like to share the love of Leith and tour this to Scandinavia and when COVID restrictions allow we will also be offering Scuttlebutt Stories live in schools, for local charities in the local community when restrictions allow to encourage Leithers to engage with SS Explorer, ocean ecology and share their own stories.

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How can you help us set sail into the virtual sunset in the midst of a global pandemic?

Take a look at our fantastic Rewards, or pay as you feel, and if you can't afford to contribute just now then please share this project on your social media page and help us celebrate the love of stories, sea shanties and our love of Leith.

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Let's make 'Scuttlebutt Stories' happen

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