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Celebrate Scotland’s Bard with BurnsFest


From 20-27 January, the Scottish Storytelling Centre will pay homage to Robert Burns with wonderful events celebrating his life and legacy.

Part of the Scotland’s Winter Festivals programme, there's a feast of live storytelling, music, workshops, dance and children’s events in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, showcasing how a poet born in 1759 is still touching people with his prose and commenting on contemporary cultural issues.

Minister for International Development and Europe, Alasdair Allan said:

Scotland’s Winter Festivals showcase Scotland’s rich heritage and encourage people at home and around the world to get involved in some of our key traditions. BurnsFest is a perfect opportunity to celebrate and learn more about our National Bard, Robert Burns. The wide range of activities in the programme – from family puppet fun to ceilidhs – is guaranteed to inspire people of all ages.

So, if you want to dip your toe into Oor Rabbie or immerse yourself in learning about this wonderful treasure, there’s something here to suit all and ensure you kick start 2018 in style at the home of Scotland’s stories.

Sylvia Troon and Burns PuppetBurns for Bairns

Introduce toddlers to Burns at Tiny Tales with Sylvia Troon on Tue 23 Jan as she brings her beautiful Burns puppet and a wee mouse too! With fairytales to enchant the youngsters, Sylvia will share a smattering of Burns verse and tunes too.

‘Through every gap, light beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.’

Then there are two opportunities for the whole family to enjoy Scottish dancing on Sat 27 Jan. From 12pm, everyone can get comfortable with Scotch Reels, taking all ages through Standard and Strathspey Reels, but most suitable for Primary and Secondary aged children. Then our popular Family Ceilidh at 2pm will feature some Burns tunes for dancing, peppered with the occasional story if there’s time around all the merry movement! Attend both these events for a discounted price - just call or pop into the Centre! 

Burns for Big Yins

For those unacquainted with Burns or wanting to discover more, Supper with Burns on Wed 24 and Thu 25 Jan is a traditional Burns Supper with a storytelling twist.

This 2016 and 2017 sell-out offers a chance to discover the real, radical spirit behind Burns’ sharp humour, as host and creator of the event David Campbell states:

Burns had a sense of egalitarianism and believed in freedom. He believed in the real worth of man and 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. Our Supper celebrates all this, with a welcome unparalleled for those wanting more with their haggis.’

Supper with Burns

Along with a delicious three-course meal of Scottish delicacies locally sourced, guests will enjoy a generous helping of Burns stories, songs and lore from storytellers David Campbell and Ruth Kirkpatrick, with music from clarsach player Katie Harrigan and an impressive rendition of Tam O'Shanter by Daniel Allison.

Keara MurphyPlus, acclaimed comedian Keara Murphy debuts her brand-new play, The Bard and I on Fri 26 Jan, which is the personal story of her relationship with Burns, the experiences she has had searching for him and exploring his fascinating life, as she states:

I’ve loved Burns since I was a wee lassie. My siblings and I were brought down to Alloway to explore Burns’ Cottage. We were all given a bit of pocket money and I blew mine on a large book of his poetry.

I do feel I can relate closely to him, for the life of the pauper poet, it seems, is not that much different from the life of the jobbing comic.

Keara will discuss creating her BBC Radio Scotland documentary series, The Secret Life of Robert Burns, which featured on BBC Radio 4's 'Pick of the Week' and includes special guest Pauline Vallance, who will share a range of Burns' songs accompanied by clarsach. After impressing all with a performance at the Centre in 2016, we are delighted to have Keara’s knowledge and passion for Burns back, with this new show guaranteed to be jam-packed with intelligent Burns banter. 

Folk Drama and WorkshopTaking Burns Further

Of course, Burns Night is a time not only to enjoy hearing the Bard’s poems and songs, but to try performing them yourself. 

Tam O'Shanter is the focus of two Workshops and Folk Drama session, where the participants are the stars!

Tam O'Shanter: Telling the Big Tale on Fri 20 Jan with Donald Smith explores the legend of Burns' narrative poem and how to perfect retelling the epic masterpiece – a must for anyone wishing to get more attuned with Burns’ psyche and words.

Folk Drama: Resources and Skills on Fri 26 Jan is a fun, participative guide to producing and performing folk dramas, exploring Tam O'Shanter as Tam's Mare Meg which highlights the crucial role of animals in what is arguably Burns’ best-known verse.

Then you can put those new skills to good use at Play in a Day: Tam's Mare Meg on Sat 27 Jan, where you can learn the script and perform live in the Storytelling Court, discovering more as the script writer Donald Smith explains:

Everybody thinks they know about Burns, but we don’t really.

'Hes a much richer, broader topic and exploring the themes of Burns with this folk drama will showcase the genius of Scotland’s Bard, as well as inform participants in the subtleties of this classic folk tale: by being in it sometimes we can understand it better.

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View Folk Drama Video from January 2017