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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 08/11/2022

2022 was Scotland’s Year of Stories. It spotlighted, celebrated and promoted the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. Each month we heard from people with a passion for stories and got an insight into their work.   

We spoke to Philippa Cochrane, Head of Reading Communities at the Scottish Book Trust, to find out more about her life and work. 

What is your job and how did you get into this line of work?

I am Head of Reading Communities at Scottish Book Trust.  Our Reading Communities programmes are designed to encourage adults across the country to read, share and discover books and reading they love and to make and share the stories from their lives that matter to them.  I have worked for Scottish Book Trust for nearly 20 years, having previously trained as a teacher and worked for a variety of arts organisations – from community arts, puppetry and theatre/theatre in education.  My original degree is in English Literature – so through a roundabout route I have ended up in my perfect job.

Philippa Cochrane, Head of Reading Communities, Scottish Book Trust

Philippa Cochrane, Scottish Book Trust

Can you tell us about the aims and objectives of Scottish Book Trust?

Our aim is to empower everyone in Scotland to reach their true potential through reading and writing.  We believe books, reading and writing have the power to change lives.  A love of reading inspires creativity, improves employment opportunities, mental health and wellbeing, and is one of the most effective ways to break the poverty cycle.  Our programmes provide opportunities for people of all ages to find what they love to read, explore and develop their creative self -expression, confidence and talent and to build a reading and writing habit to sustain them throughout their whole lives. 

Why do you think stories are so important?

Stories are how we understand the world, they are how we find ourselves, they are how we connect with each other.  We tell stories to make sense of things and to share experiences and feelings and memories– I think stories are what make us human, and I think they are how we hold on to that humanity.

What’s in store at this year’s Book Week Scotland?

There is a fantastic skirl of events in communities across the country – on Monday 14 November you can watch the live stream of Scotland’s Stories with Sally Magnusson from the comfort of your own living room.  During the week look out for a copy of our free book. Also called Scotland’s Stories, it is a collection of true and personal stories from people across Scotland - why not pick up two to give one to a friend.  There’s plenty to do online – you can vote for your favourite animal from fiction, or tell us what you are reading for Book Week on the Reading Map, watch Book Shriek Scotland or the films and digital stories from Community Campfires.  And if you like a podcast you can also listen to podcasts of stories from members of the public.  If you enjoy creative writing and like a game, try our Write Your Own Quest pack and share the results with us.

Scotland's Stories: Tales from the people of Scotland will be at the Glasgow Film Theatre on 14 November 2022
Scotland's Stories: Tales from the people of Scotland will be at the Glasgow Film Theatre on 14 November 2022
Image credit Eoin Carey

The Community Campfires project is part of this year’s celebrations, can you tell us more about it? 

Community Campfires is a wonderful project which took place to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Stories.  In the Spring of this year we took a team of story makers – podcasters, filmmakers, writers, digital and traditional storytellers and Luke Winter and his Story Wagon – to four different communities.  We stayed in those communities for a week asking the people we encountered to tell us stories from their lives that mattered to them.  Each community was so generous in its welcome – we heard tales of loved family members, of growing up, of coming to Scotland; people shared their journeys through dark times or their greatest joys, the things that have made them cry and the memories that make them laugh.  We learned about what makes a family, a friendship, a community.  You can see, listen to, read the stories through our website or by coming to the Scotland’s Stories event at Glasgow Film Theatre on 14 November.

Luke Winter and the Story Wagon were part of the Scottish Book Trust's Community Campfires events in 2022
Luke Winter and the Story Wagon were part of the Scottish Book Trust's Community Campfires events in 2022
Image credit Chris Watt

What Year of Stories events have you enjoyed this year and are there any still to come that you’re planning to attend?

Firstly – I was able to go to our Community Campfire event in Lochgelly, and the lovely people who shared their stories have remained the highlight of my year.  I have really enjoyed Raise the Roof in Perth and Scottish Storytelling Centre/Edinburgh City of Literature’s Figures of Speech has been an inspiring programme – I have been watching them remotely and I hope to make the last one on St Andrews Day.

Do you think Year of Stories has been a success and what do you think its legacy will be?

I definitely think Year of Stories has been a success.  Scotland has such a history of sharing stories and words, stories, and books are such a vibrant part of our collective culture that this year was always going to be something special.  But for me it’s been like watching that culture coming rushing to the surface, like we have decked the country in our stories, as if they were precious pieces of jewellery that we have remembered to wear and show off so that others can enjoy their sparkle too.

Book Week Scotland is an annual celebration of books and reading that takes place across the country. You can find out more about Book Week Scotland on the Scottish Book Trust website.

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