Thistles and Sunflowers

Sunflower fields near Varna, Bulgaria. Image courtesy of Rossi Thomson

Nectar for insects, seeds for birds and symbols for nations, Thistles and Sunflowers is a spotlight on stories and artists from Scotland and Bulgaria. Established in 2022, Thistles and Sunflowers is a festival platform co-curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva

Thistles and Sunflowers at a glance:

Thistles and Sunflowers 2023

Join us for the return to the stage on 28 April 2023 7pm at the Scottish Storytelling Centre of Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion – the revived live show and one of the highlights of our inaugural festival weekend. Find all the details here, including how to book your ticket on a Pay What You Can basis

Visit our Thistles and Sunflowers Poetry Trail in one of Edinburgh’s finest secret gardens which we launched on 30 June 2022 and extended until 11 April 2023. Free and open to all.

The story of Thistles and Sunflowers 2022

The inaugural edition of the Thistles and Sunflowers festival ran from 18 May – 22 September 2022 inside and outside Edinburgh’s Scottish Storytelling Centre as a showcase of dance and drama, music and films, poetry, art and design from the lands of thistles and sunflowers as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022.

It featured artists from across Bulgaria and Scotland, including Yana Aleksandrova, Thomas Bak, Caroline Brockbank, Colin Garvin, Jenny Haslimeier, Stefan Ivanov, Maria Kassimova-Moisset, Jim Mackintosh, Ariana Stoyanova, Alexis Street and Theodore Ushev.

Featured were also works by the Bulgarian writers Marin Bodakov, Tsocho Boyadjiev, Silvia Choleva, Peter Chuhov, Krassimira Dzhisova, Georgi Gospodinov, Vangel Imreorov, Mirela Ivanova, Maria Kalinova, Ivan Landzhev, Anna Lazarova, Galina Nikolova, Nikola Petrov and Nadya Radulova.

#ThistlesandSunflowers #YS2022 #TalesOfScotland

View, print or download the Thistles and Sunflowers spring 2022 flyer here

Thistles and Sunflower is an initiative of The Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland – the only independent non-profit and non-venue based arts, culture and education organisation of its kind in Scotland. Established in August 2017, the centre curates, produces, coordinates and amplifies cultural events, festivals and initiatives which feature Bulgarian-born creatives or those of Bulgarian descent who are often Scotland-based.

Installation view of Hidden Letters sculpture poetry trail featuring Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva

The Thistles and Sunflowers festival in spring and summer 2022 marked the fifth anniversary of the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland and represents the latest curatorial collaboration between Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva following the two major solo exhibitions by Katherina Radeva and Diana Savova, as well as Hidden Letters – Edinburgh’s new sculpture poetry trail and Balkan Rhapsody – the forthcoming translation and publication of Maria Kassimova-Moisset’s debut novel.

The festival also formed part of two more celebrations from the lands of thistles and sunflowers. Firstly, the National Day of the Cyrillic Alphabet celebrating Bulgarian cultural heritage, literature and the arts every 24 May. Secondly, 2022 – Scotland’s Year of Stories showcasing and celebrating stories inspired by, created and written in Scotland.

#ThistlesandSunflowers #YS2022 #TalesOfScotland

The love of stories is hardwired into us all; it is one of the strongest ways we connect with one another and share our experiences. VisitScotland

Wee White Cloud based on an image by Anton Antonov on Unspalsh

Thistles and Sunflowers 2022 was funded by two sources – City of Edinburgh Council Flexible Fund: Creative Community Partnerships: Collaboration & Exchange, as well as Tasgadh Fund for Traditional Arts devolved from Creative Scotland and managed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

Thistles and Sunflowers 2022 was produced by the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland and delivered in a partnership with Scottish Storytelling Centre, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Bilinguism Matters, New Bulgarians Culture Platform, Scottish Book Trust, Scottish Poetry Library, Found in Translation Book Club at Edinburgh Central Library, Tippermuir Books, Reading Sofia Foundation, DannsEd, Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh and The Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in the UK.

Meet Yana Aleksandrova, our storyteller-in-residence

Portrait of Yana Aleksandrova. Image by Maya Yovcheva

Yana is a published writer, scientist, composer and theatre maker. FIND OUT MORE HERE

Meet Alexis Street and Ariana Stoyanova, our dance artists-in-residence

From L to R: Diana Savova, Alexis Street, James MacDonald Reid and Ariana Stoyanova as part of TDFS micro-commission launch Thistles, Sunflowers and Dreamscapes 3 Augist 2021. Image by Kaloyan Bukovski. To see a dance segment from the launch WATCH HERE

Alexis is a Scottish Highland dancer and rock climbing instructor based in Edinburgh. Ariana is a Bulgarian-born folk dancer and landscape architect based in Edinburgh. FIND OUT MORE HERE:

Join the Thistles and Sunflowers conversation at the Facebook page of The Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre here.

With all our curatorial projects, including Thistles and Sunflowers, we strive for a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and ethnically-diverse Scotland. Our aim is to continue to initiate, produce and deliver cultural activities across Scotland reaching out to any English-speaking audiences, as well as the Bulgarian-speaking Scots and the Bulgarian diaspora alike as evidenced by our initial activities in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth.

Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva

Thistles and Sunflowers poster based on an image by Di Maitland on Unsplash


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