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  • The Year of Stories 2022 was the latest in Scotland’s successful series of Themed Years. VisitScotland led on the Themed Year on behalf of Scottish Government.
  • The Year of Stories represented a major collaborative programme. Hundreds of partners came together from across the tourism, events and related sectors. This activity generated a wide range of benefits against agreed objectives.
  • The report brings together information from a range of evaluation sources. These include event reports, marketing and PR campaign results and independent commissioned research.

Year of Stories 2022 Evaluation Report

Published May 2023

Key statistics

1.4 million

attendances at 201 Year of Stories funded events


funded and partner events across all 32 local authorities


opportunities created for artists at Year of Stories events


of communities and organisations shared their diverse stories


In 2022 stories inspired by, created, or written in Scotland were showcased and celebrated. The associated programme of activity supported the nation’s tourism, events, and related sectors. 

The Themed Year brought our contemporary and traditional cultures to life. It set out to ensure that the full diversity of our stories, in all their forms, reached the widest audiences and generated a range of agreed benefits. 

Year of Stories (YS2022) was developed across 2021 and launched in January 2022 when COVID-19 was still impacting our daily lives. It proved to be an important contribution towards recovery. YS2022 delivered impressive results against set objectives. It engaged communities and visitors alike, supporting activity across all 32 local authorities.

Year of Stories launch at The Helix, Falkirk. Credit: VisitScotland / Chris Watt


A developing model

Themed Years drive domestic and international tourism. They encourage the tourism, events, and related sectors to unite around a common theme. Their impacts have developed beyond their significant promotional values.

Themed Years are a way for the widest range of partners to amplify their efforts to promote their offer and Scotland. They provide an important platform to advance innovation, product development and artist opportunities. They also address wider priorities such as community engagement, responsible tourism, diversity, and inclusion. YS2022 is a strong example of how collaboration can amplify the efforts of many and generate multiple benefits.

Scope of the year

At the heart of a successful Themed Year are three key strands of activity:

  • The development and delivery of an exciting and engaging public events programme.
  • Associated marketing and promotional campaigns.
  • Effective industry engagement.

YS2022 put inclusivity and diversity at the heart of all strands of activity. It embraced not only the widest range of voices but the widest range of activity and content aligned to the theme. There was a strong focus on recovery, (re)engagement and expanding awareness, audiences, and participation.

The visitor opportunity encompassed all forms of storytelling, showcasing five cross-cutting sub-themes:

  • Iconic Stories and Storytellers
  • New Stories
  • Scotland’s People and Places
  • Local Tales and Legends
  • Inspired by Nature

Response from partners to the five themes was enthusiastic, resulting in a well-balanced and diverse programme.

YS2022 encompassed all aspects of our tourism offering and visitor experience in relation to our stories and storytelling heritage. It had a focus on developing unique, authentic experiences and sustainable tourism opportunities.

There was also a particular focus on engaging our communities, and we worked closely in partnership with Museums Galleries Scotland and National Lottery Heritage Fund.  New opportunities were created for communities to engage with the Year and develop new skills through participation.

Responsible Tourism principles and practices underpinned the design and delivery of all aspects of activity, with tangible results. For example, most event organisers reported an increased focus on sustainable events management due to their engagement with YS2022.  Audience research showed that the majority of YS2022 event attendees were more aware of and more interested in engaging with our cultural heritage. 

The YS2022 strategic plan was developed by the Steering Group and signed off by the (then) Culture Minister.  This was supported by an evaluation framework which set out delivery strategies for each of the headline objectives – Promotion, Celebration, Participation, Collaboration and Industry Engagement – along with measurable targets. YS2022 met all and surpassed many of its original targets.

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Headline performance against objectives

1. Promotion

Media impact was vast, with 2,760 pieces of coverage reaching people an estimated 5.6 billion times in print and online. Coverage spanned UK, North America, Europe and China, extending our reach to a global audience. In addition to print and online media, YS2022 generated 112 items of broadcast coverage. 

In addition to media reach, our marketing activity and campaigns alone are estimated to have reached people a total of 148 million times across our markets.

There were also over four million video views of YS2022 themed videos. This included promotional videos, community events videos, influencer videos and Chinese WeChat videos.

An ‘always on’ approach adopted for the paid campaigns ensured strong reach and awareness of messaging throughout the year. Our reach was also magnified by activity delivered by YS2022’s many partners.



Scotland's Witch Trail. Credit: VisitScotland / Phil Wilkinson

2. Celebration

Creating a rich and varied events programme is a central aspect of the Themed Year approach. Events animate our places and spaces, provide exciting new hooks for media as well as impetus for participation, engagement, and event-led tourism.

The YS2022 programme provided a strong opportunity for artists and creative talent to create and showcase new work.  A total of 6,620 opportunities were created through funded events for artists to reach new audiences.

There were two events funding programmes and one non-funded ‘partner’ events programme for YS2022. Across the three programmes more than 350 events/event programmes were delivered. Activity took place in all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities, in every calendar month. 

It was clear when scoping YS2022 that the theme provided an especially effective opportunity to reach diverse communities across Scotland. This led to us working in an effective close partnership with Museums Galleries Scotland, with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Government, to create a new Community Stories Programme.

Community Stories Programme

This new programme sat alongside the existing ‘Open’ and ‘Partner’ events programmes. It was developed specifically to support community facing organisations and community groups to take part in the Year. Groups spotlighted the unique stories that mattered to them with the creation of new events, activities, and programming.

An initial budget of £100,000 was maximised more than nine-fold to £928,000 with additional support from partners to meet demand. Funding was awarded to 180 grantees. A ‘wrap-around’ programme of promotional support and skills development was also created. 

An independent report from Wavehill evidences that the programme helped bring communities together. It highlighted Scotland’s diverse voices across a range of storytelling forms. It advanced Intangible Cultural Heritage capture, and created multiple benefits. These included contributing to community wellbeing, skills development, developing new partnerships and opportunities, and creating thriving, resilient communities.


Wigtown Book Festival. Credit: Colin Tennant





BE United Presents: Live at the Fringe. Credit: VisitScotland / Rob McDougall

3. Participation

YS2022 more than met expectations in terms of attendances and participation. More than 1.4 million people attended a funded event either in-person or online.

There were 397,284 in-person and 82,641 digital attendances across the 21 YS2022 Open Fund events. An additional 357,543 in-person and 584,518 digital attendances were seen across the 180 Community Stories Funded events.

For the 153 Partner Events, the total attendance number is difficult to confidently estimate. From those Partner Events that supplied attendance information, the reported range was between 10 people at one event to 57,250 across ten days at another event.

Overall attendance across the full programme was extremely high. Whilst many events exceeded expected attendance, some reported lower than anticipated figures. This particularly applied to those taking place during the early part of the year when COVID-19 was still impacting our daily lives. 

In terms of making participation accessible, many events took action on financial access. This included offering free tickets, operating a ‘pay what you can’ model or providing free transport.


Stories of Nairn. Credit: VisitScotland / Rob McDougall

4. Collaboration

Themed Years provide a proven and powerful platform for partnership working and collaboration across public, private and third sector organisations.

32 organisations were involved in directly shaping and delivering YS2022 through the Steering and Working groups. Hundreds of partners delivered events, campaigns and initiatives inspired by the year.

YS2022 brought together interests across tourism, events, creative industries, culture, heritage and more.

Many of the partners had not previously engaged with a Themed Year before. The addition of their input and knowledge to shape the year was hugely beneficial.

Both new and existing partners have reported benefits from the exchange of knowledge and a widening of networks. This in turn has enhanced the activity delivered as part of the year and provided strong future potential. The full evaluation report provides many examples of effective collaboration.


Credit: Publishing Scotland

5. Industry engagement

There was a loss of a year’s planning and pre-promotion time due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the roll-over of the previous Themed Year into 2021. Despite this, engagement from partners and stakeholders was strong. Hundreds of industry reps engaged with online webinars and launches.

 A core aspect of industry engagement was the creation of a free to use marketing toolkit. This was launched in September 2021 and went on to achieve 11,900 page views (target 10,000). The toolkit contained tips on how to get involved in the year. It included a dedicated image collection on our Digital Media Library and links to useful resources.

442 ‘Supporting Year of Stories 2022’ logos were downloaded from the toolkit.  There were more than 60,000 individual uses of the campaign hashtags (target 50,000). This shows how many organisations used the campaign platform and tools to create their own aligned campaigns.

There were many examples of innovative new product, content and campaigns created by industry inspired by YS2022. For example, Isle of Cumbrae Distillers created a new gin and multiple DMOs created new content and campaigns.


Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian. Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam


YS2022 was developed as collaborative platform to assist recovery and was regarded as a positive strategy. However, the operating context presented challenges for many. These challenges included COVID-19 restrictions, staffing and skills shortages, increasing supply chain and utilities costs, etc. This meant that some potential partners reported they simply didn’t have the capacity to proactively engage as they would like. Despite the challenging circumstances, the level of industry engagement remained strong. This was evidenced by the wide and varied range of partners that engaged.

Ongoing impact and approval

Formal feedback from partners highlighted that participation in a Themed Year can have an ongoing positive impact – examples included attracting new funding on the back of YS2022 activity and strategic policy advancement in respect of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Feedback also evidenced a high appetite from partners to participate in future Themed Years. When asked, 96% of all event partners stated they would like to participate again. The Partner Case Studies undertaken by Wavehill further underline this enthusiasm.

Community Stories Programme video

Appendices and related documents

Year of Stories 2022 Evaluation Executive Summary

Published May 2023

Appendix 6 - Community Stories Programme – Independent Programme Evaluation Report (Wavehill)

Published May 2023

Appendix 7 - Community Stories Case Studies Report (Wavehill)

Published May 2023

Appendix 8 - Partner Organisation Case Studies Report (Wavehill)

Published May 2023

Year of Stories promotional video

Related links