Home   News   Article

Queer take on Highlands and Islands stories and legends comes to NessBookFest

By Margaret Chrystall

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!

NessBookFest returns to Inverness on Thursday with Jenny Johnstone and Annie Gilfillan from hit podcast Stories of Scotland sharing favourite Highland legends, myths, and traditional stories, retold through a queer lens.

Annie Gilfillan (left) and Jenny Johnstone of Stories of Scotland. Picture: Gary Anthony
Annie Gilfillan (left) and Jenny Johnstone of Stories of Scotland. Picture: Gary Anthony

The Stories of Scotland podcast began after Jenny and Annie met in 2018 on the stand up scene in Inverness and became friends and found a mutual interest in meeting people to make a podcast with.

“And in discussing tha,t we discovered we had been looking for a show on Scotland that didn’t exist!” Jenny said. “Annie is an archivist and I am an environmental scientist and Annie was also studying Scottish history at the time, and we both just clicked really well. The podcast has just gone from strength to strength really!

“We started in 2019, which was lucky as it was pre-pandemic. But a lot of the Scottish history things that were around were pretty chronological ‘This happened and then this happened’ and were kind of dry. Or it would be things like big battles and kings and that gives quite a distorted view of Scottish history. We would much rather learn about the ordinary life of people through the centuries and what it means – not to be a king or queen – and there was really nothing doing that!

“A few more podcasts have popped up since then, but when people come looking for a Scottish history podcast they find ours and seem to stick with it, which is really nice!”

Stories of Scotland guest at NessBookFest.
Stories of Scotland guest at NessBookFest.

The duo put out three episodes a month and alternate between a Fireside Folktales one where they “tell each other traditional tales, really!”

Jenny said: “We research them and write them in our voices and interspersed with those we have bigger episodes where we look at a place, a person or an event that one of us has become randomly obsessed with!

“We love getting into things that the other one suggests and getting stuck into the research!”

The two have freedom to create their own agenda as they have remained independent and have a company together that they make Stories of Scotland through, so they can follow their own creative influences.

“People choose to listen to you and get to know you through it and we feel we can just be ourselves.”

The podcast won the Royal Society of Literature Literature Matters award in 2021, which gave them funding to do a series called Radical Mountain Women.

They have also been nominated for awards such as the British Podcast Award in 2021 and the International Women’s Podcast Award in 2022. And they are currently nominated for two independent podcast awards and have a Highlands and Islands Tourism Award nomination for Innovation in Tourism.

“We recently just passed a million downloads and it is a bit surreal to think of the numbers!

“One of the things that most surprises us is how widespread and passionate our audience is – very much in America, Canada, Australia, but we also have people listening in South America and China and have messages from people in Russia – all over the world.

“It’s wonderful to be able to spread these little chunks of joy across the world!”

In the past the duo performed Queer As Folktales for Highland Pride which became more of a show than a podcast.

Twist to hit podcast Stories of Scotland as special event Queer As Folktales

Robin Ince to headline NessBookFest

“From that we got funding from the Edwin Morgan Trust to turn it into a three-part podcast,” Jenny explained. “And from that we got funding from Creative Scotland to write a book which might also be called Queer As Folktales, and we are working on that now!

“We are retelling Highland tales through a queer lens. Some of the stories we have made up – new stories that follow traditional folklore.

"Others are traditional stories found in archives. That is what we are going to be doing at next week’s NessBookFest event, telling those traditional tales.”

The Stories of Scotland Podcast – Queer as Folklore: LGBTQ+ Legends of the Highlands & Islands is at the Beaufort Hotel on Thursday at 7.30pm. Book: More on the festival here

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More