Seeing Stories

Recovering Landscape Narrative in Urban and Rural Europe

  • Edinburgh
  • Firenze
  • Lisboa
  • Aachen
  • Edinburgh
  • Firenze
  • Lisboa
  • Aachen


Landscape narrative is a vital and under-realised European asset that connects citizens to their local environments while also providing common resources, values and identities that transcend geographical and cultural borders. By seeing through the eyes of others we look anew at our own place; by looking again at our own place we learn to see other environments with fresh eyes.

'Seeing Stories' will enhance and creatively communicate a shared experience of place, by bringing together local and international dimensions, so increasing mutual understanding and promotion of European landscape narrative in contemporary cultural and economic contexts.

Project partners established in Scotland, Italy, Portugal and Germany will work on the achievement of several shared objectives, mainly focusing on the use of live storytelling for recovering and promoting landscape narratives and resulting in the delivery of storytelling festivals in Edinburgh (2013 and 2014), Lisbon (2014), Florence (2014) and Aachen (2014).

Another important aspect of the project is the development of creative Storyguides related to specific areas in partners' countries, exploring new ways of engaging with places and helping building up a vision that embraces both the local and the European dimension.

Project partners aim at a sustainable development of the project objectives and resources, both linking to local stakeholders and establishing an international network for sharing results, best practices and cooperation ideas.

Year of Application 2012, Dates: June 2013 – April 2015

Wisdom Sits in Places

Every place contains an accumulated store of experiences, memories and emotions. Sometimes these are obvious to the eye or ear, but sometimes they are hidden.

We have focussed on specific places, researched, studied and physically explored. But we have also learned to listen: to let a place and its people speak. Then we can begin to appreciate the nuances and complexities, the layering, the hidden corners as well as the busy thoroughfares.

The 'spirit of place' is often surprising, richer, and more contradictory than we imagine. Attentive humility is required to avoid mistranslation. We need to hear the stories that are only reluctantly voiced due to that very fear of misunderstanding.



Do not decide too soon the theme, shape or content of a Storyguide- in whatever medium. First come listening, researching, gathering, till everything spreads out in the mind like a random mosaic or the pieces of an unmade jigsaw puzzle.

Gradually then the possible patterns emerge. Particular stories belong to very specific locations; others are floating looking for their home. Sequences of stories begin to relate to series of places. Factual research begins to merge and marry with legends and creative invention. There are inviting gaps to be filled, snatches of poetry and song that tantalise. Connecting themes and routes take shape without settling in a fixed form. The possibility of the Storyguide begins to grow.

But this growing bush is starting to sprawl in perhaps too many directions. Some branches are tangled and overlapping. Some bits are thin and others too dense. Length, attention span, location, pace, punctuation. Everything must now be disciplined so that the end result will be vibrant on ear and eye. Redundant detail- cut. Lengthy digressions- cut. Desire to and that extra anecdote- cut. Squeezing too many words in too short a time- cut. Illusion that everyone will follow the Guide at the same pace in perfect time- destroy.

If we have done our work well then the Guide will sing back to the place. If we have done our work well, then the Guide or Tour will take on a life of its own and add another layer of experience to that place, complementary yet also new.



Love of place is not restricted to settled populations. Emigrants and migrants bring their own traditions of home and landscape, gradually accommodating them to the new place. In a century of increasing mobility, adapting our sense of place becomes an essential aspect of social, psychological and spiritual well-being. Shared communication through a storytelling culture of mutual respect offers enriching ways forward. The more fully and deeply that sharing is expressed the more cohesive and open a sense of community becomes.

Dislocation and mobility are also linked with the global environmental crisis. Without emotional and spiritual connection, relationships between people and place become instrumental, exploitative, depressing and destructive. Through our project we have found a desire among people of all kinds to express their concern for our environment by being more culturally and psychologically connected. Landscape narratives, urban and rural, are welcomed as an accessible and integrating way of bringing people together, even across barriers of conflict or prejudice.

Storytelling is a simple yet profound response to the global challenge of sustainability.






Seeing Stories is ending as a project. But through the project we have met many individuals and organisations who want to share good practice and creative skills. So we are forming an international network called Stories in Place. The network is open to all those who through their work, art or volunteering wish to strengthen the connections between people and place through storytelling. Our aim is to further strengthen international friendship and collaboration.

If you would like to be part of Stories in Place please contact Donald Smith, Project Manager of Seeing Stories, and Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, on