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High Life Highland libraries kick-start traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Alda crafting Session
Alda crafting Session

A PhD student has started to facilitate traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions across High Life Highland’s libraries.

Over the course of the last six months, High Life Highland’s network of libraries have been working together with Alda Hrannardottir, a PhD student from University of Iceland.

This has been part of a UK-based placement, where Alda has been researching how rural communities engage with services such as libraries.

In a cultural exchange, Alda has been facilitating traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions at various library venues across the Highlands and Islands whilst conducting research for her studies.

These have come to form a Highland-wide programme of events in High Life Highland’s libraries, with highlights including children's Christmas storytelling, traditional Icelandic knitting (known as ‘Lopapeysa’), Icelandic Saga and Norse Mythology sessions.

Asuka McKenna, High Life Highland’s Network librarian, said: “I was one of the first library staff members to meet Alda at Inverness Library, where she explained to me her research topic of rural community engagement with Library services and the origin of her interests in it.

“Though the purpose of her placement is to conduct research, Alda has volunteered her time helping out library staff at locations across the Highlands and Islands, sharing knowledge and also parts of Icelandic culture.

“As I got to know Alda, I came to learn that she is a naturally good storyteller, particularly when it comes to Iceland and Icelandic culture."

Alda explained that Icelandic stories and crafts are part of an oral tradition, similar to Highland cultural history – and that storytelling is usually an experience shared to get through the dark and cold Icelandic nights.

She said: “I thought that regular Library users would be interested to gain insight and participate in Alda’s storytelling, so we began organising times and spaces for the purpose of sharing these experiences with communities across the Highlands which so far includes Inverness, Inshes, and Glenurquhart libraries."

“I also discovered that she is a very keen knitter! Alda has already, and will again, be joining the knitting groups at Inverness and Glenurquhart Libraries, sharing ‘Lopapeysa’ – traditional Icelandic knitting techniques – and how to mend their jumpers and socks."

She continued: “The kitting group at Inverness library on Tuesday 14th November filled the library space with colourful and cosy knitting works, which was certainly a unique treat for everyone who witnessed the display.

“The wider library teams and I are hoping to arrange Icelandic Saga and Norse Mythology sessions with Alda in the New Year. In the meantime, we welcome members of the public to join in on the sessions scheduled for early December.”

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