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A two-week celebration of the Bard: Burnsfest at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Donald Smith at Supper with Burns

From 21 Jan – 6 Feb 2016, the Scottish Storytelling Centre will pay homage to Robert Burns with eight braw events celebrating his work, life and legacy.

Part of the SCOTLAND’S WINTER FESTIVALS programme, the events include live storytelling, music, workshops, children’s events and, of course, a traditional Burns Supper with a storytelling twist, all in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said:

Scotland’s Winter Festivals showcase our rich heritage and encourage people at home and around the world to celebrate some of our key traditions – from first-footing to the poetry of Burns.

“As part of the Winter Festivals programme, Burnsfest will be the perfect opportunity to engage people in storytelling, one of Scotland’s oldest pastimes. The Scottish Storytelling Centre is the ideal place to inspire the imagination – from Burns Suppers to family puppet fun – and the programme is guaranteed to be a fitting tribute to our National Bard, Robert Burns.

Programme and Events Manager at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Daniel Abercrombie said:

Burns continues to inspire debate and passion in our audiences and performers. We are celebrating his work in many different ways, showing the scandals, passions and frustrations, as well as his wonderful words.”

Burns for BeginnersClassic Burns

Those unacquainted with Rabbie might want to start with Burns for Beginners on Fri 22 Jan. A sell-out at TradFest Edinburgh 2014 and BurnsFest 2015, this show is a lively and accessible introduction to Burns’ best-known works, from poems To a Mouse and Tam O’Shanter to songs Ae Fond Kiss and A Man’s A Man, accompanied by English subtitles for those unfamiliar with Scots.

On Sun 24 and Mon 25 Jan, enjoy Supper with Burns, offering a chance to discover the real, radical spirit of the Bard which echoes throughout his work. Along with a delicious three-course meal including haggis, neeps and tatties, guests will be treated to a generous helping of Burns stories, songs and lore from storytellers David Campbell and Linda Bandelier,with music from clarsach player Katie Harrigan.

Full of Burns’ rich poetry and sharp humour, it’s easy to see why Supper with Burns has been a Centre favourite for years. As David Campbell states:

“Burns was an internationalist. He had a sense of egalitarianism and he believed in freedom. He believed in the real worth of man, and within himself, extols these virtues in his poetry. His humanity was incredible and that really captures people’s imaginations. Plus his wry humour is also incisive, even today.”

Family Burns

For wee ones, It’s in the Bag: Burnsfest Special provides a lively introduction to the delights of the Bard with two different shows on Sat 23 Jan from an award-winning duo. The fun begins at Sam & Rosie's Tartan Tea Party, a journey to the north of Scotland for under 2s with a smattering of the Bard's finest throughout Scots rhymes and songs. For ages 3-6, there’s Sam & Rosie's Highland Adventure: The Mystery of the Lost Haggis!, an energetic session featuring a Burns Ceilidh, tartan tots and Grandpa’s prize-winning haggis.

Having spent much of his early life surrounded by farm animals, Burns developed a profound respect for nature and gave animals a social and moral voice in his work. On Sat 23 Jan, IDEOMS Theatre present Lords of the Creation… and Other Beasts, a quirky and entertaining look at Burns’ best-loved poems, suitable for ages 12 and up. Half-time haggis included!

Taking Burns further 

On Thu 21 Jan, Keara Murphy presents her acclaimed BBC Radio Scotland show, The Secret Sex Life of Robert Burns. Burns also enjoyedChristine Kydd an infamously eventful love life – but what happened to the women left behind when he moved on? Featuring live music, storytelling and comedy, this fascinating performance explores both the good and the ugly side of the poet.

Of course, Burns Night is a time not only to enjoy hearing the Bard’s poems and songs, but to try performing them yourself. Donald Smithleads a session dedicated to Tam O’ Shanter: Telling the Big Tale on Fri 22 Jan, where he’ll discuss his lifelong quest to understand the poem and do it justice in the perfect telling – a must for anyone wishing to perform or understand Burns’ defining work.

On Sat 6 Feb, Christine Kydd leads a practical and creative masterclass on Burns Songs: Approaches for Solo Singers. Selecting from his extensive repertoire, she shares insights and approaches to the great Scottish songwriter, focusing on both accompanied and unaccompanied styles.

Keen performers can pay their own homage to the Bard on Tue 26 Jan at Café Ceilidh: Celebrating Robert Burns. Join Linten Adie and friends from the Scots Music Group for a free afternoon of songs and music, including an open floor space where participants will be encouraged to share their own renditions of Burns’ much-loved work.

To book, pop into the Centre, call our box office on 0131 556 9579 or visit the Centre Events page.