Celebrating Scotland’s Bard with Burnsfest

It’s fascinating and heart-warming to observe how Burns, a poet born in 1759, is still touching people’s lives with his prose and commenting on contemporary cultural issues.

Celebrating the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, on 25 January, is the perfect opportunity for those who know everything, a little or not a lot about Scotland’s Bard to discover more.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre is delighted to continue its tradition of spreading the Burns love with Burnsfest, ensuring everyone can access Robert Burns.

Rod PatersonBurnsfest (from Wed 15 January to Sat 1 Feb) is a feast of language, music, art, song and story for a cold January. Burns Night marks the culmination of Scotland’s Winter Festivals which celebrates key traditions through the winter months, so gather together and enjoy discovering Burns fresh, or delving deeper into the ploughman from Ayrshire.

Plus, the Centre is delighted to present two workshops to delve deeper into Oor Rabbie, with Donald Smith exploring Burns’ defining , sharing his lifelong quest to understand the poem and do it justice in that ever elusive perfect telling, while one of the folk scenes greatest assets, Rod Paterson, provides insights and approaches to the world’s greatest song writer in .


Rab Wilson

Drop in to see Calum Colvin’s fantastic mixed media exhibition Burnsiana, which visually suggests new ways of seeing not only the subject himself but the context and mythology that has grown around him. The exhibition is on display until Sat 1 Feb, with a rotation of pieces fortnightly so Colvin’s extensive and visceral imaginings can be seen in all their glory.

Calum Colvin will be at the Centre for two events to coincide with his exhibition. An accompanying Burnsiana book combines Colvin’s photography with poems written in response to the images by Scots poet Rab Wilson, who has established himself as one of Scottish poetry’s unique voices with his highly acclaimed Scots verse.

Utilising his historical voice in an age that has forgotten how to think historically, on Wednesday 15 Jan at 7pm promises Wilson’s witty take on his fellow makar, against the backdrop of Colvin’s artworks. Words and images combine in an insightful evening, holding a mirror up to contemporary society and exploring the continuing relevance of Burns’ legacy.

Colvin also appears at the Centre on Sat 1 Feb at 3pm for . He joins the University of Dundee’s Professor of History of Scottish Art Murdo Macdonald and independent art consultant Sheilagh Tennant for a panel discussion and Q&A on Burn’s legacy, and the appeal and inspiration that Burns gives to successions of visual artists.

Addressing a Haggis and Burns on Independence

Supper with Burns

Burnsfest would not be complete without the Centre’s fantastic, annual alternative Burns Supper taking place on Wed 22, Thu 23 and Fri 24 Jan (Fri Sold Out) at 7pm. Performed by professional storytellers Linda Bandelier and David Campbell, who are accompanied by the fantastic Katie Harrigan on clarsach, is an entertaining piece of drama that skilfully interweaves the traditional Burns Supper format with stories and songs about Burns’ life. Burns’ surreal imagination, instinctive democratic radicalism and his celebration of love and desire in a culture famed for repression and hypocrisy is all explored, with a wry smile of course, offering a chance to discover the real, radical spirit of Oor Rabbie.

Then on Sat 25 Jan at 2pm the radical spirit of Burns is probed further with Burns biographer Robert Crawford explores what independence meant to the Bard and his politics in relation to today’s current cultural scene. Crawford will draw inspiration from his new book, Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and Literary Imagination 1314-2014, interspersed with some of Burns’ most cutting prose.

Family Burns

Sylvia Troon PuppetsBurns’ unique use of language is one of the key factors contributing to his continual popularity, and there’s no better time to introduce Scotland’s Bard to youngsters than through fun, interactive performance and puppetry.

The Storytelling Centre have organised two fantastic events for youngsters on Sat 25 Jan featuring a trio of talented taleweavers delivering  an entertaining, enthralling and informative day for youngsters, and the young at heart.

Macastory, comprised of storytellers Fergus McNicol and Ron Fairweather, have an enviable back catalogue of entertaining younger audiences, with their ability to perfectly combine fantastic storytelling, drama, fun and education in an exciting and innovative way.

At 11am they present , which serves up a conundrum of identity as two Rabbies are claiming to be the true Bard! Through tall tales, songs and poetry galore, the audience will discover the untold adventures and secret stories behind Burns’ works, then they decide who’s the real Bard and who’s the imposter before the real Robert is revealed!

Then at 2pm, master storyteller, performer and puppeteer Sylvia Troon presents her interpretation of the life and work of Burns through her wonderful, lifelike figures in . A fun, interactive afternoon that, as Sylvia states“will bring the past alive in a fascinating way with storytelling and authentic-looking puppet characters”. Plus, the baby Burns puppet is truly adorable!

Burns and Music

Coreen Scott

For Burns Night at the Storytelling Centre we have a fantastic concert of drama and music with on Sat 25 Jan at 7.30pm.

Award winning playwright Andrew Dallmeyer and acclaimed Scottish singer Coreen Scott first joined forces for this production as part of Homecoming 2009 celebrations in East Lothian, so it’s fitting it returns for another viewing in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town in the second Year of Homecoming.

The dramatic musical tribute portrays the life of Burns’ mother, Agnes Broun, portrayed by Anne Raitt, and reflects on Burns’ writing and songs, as Coreen Scott explains: “It’s such a refreshing change to celebrate Burns by exploring one of the more fundamental influences of his life – his family. After all, if it weren’t for family, what are we?”

A perfect blend of story and music, with the songs of Burns performed by Coreen Scott, as well as a celebration of traditional and contemporary songs and music with a host of friends, ensuring a fantastic Burns evening of genuine, Scottish entertainment.

Plus, Linten Adie’s bi monthly free event Café Ceilidh on Tue 28 Jan at 2pm will celebrate Burns with many a Scottish lilt in a lovely afternoon of songs and music.