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Lively Tradition and New Perspectives – Celebrating Burns Night 

The Scottish Storytelling Centre, supported by Scotland’s Winter Festivals event fund, honours the legacy of Robert Burns through a series of cross-generational celebrations, bringing people together home and away.

Whether it’s ringing in the New Year with “Auld Lang Syne”, book titles, pop music, or featuring on banknotes – the ploughman’s poet as he’s often referred to, still plays an intrinsic part in everyday life.

From 18-25 January, the Scottish Storytelling Centre will pay homage to Robert Burns with a feast of storytelling, music, a workshop, dance and family events, celebrating his life and legacy in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Programme Manager Daniel Abercrombie, explains:

“Our Burnsfest season welcomes the bard to modern day Edinburgh through theatre performances and interactive ceilidhs of story, music, song and dance, held in the truest of spirits. There are opportunities to be entertained, to learn and to participate in this varied selection of events, which celebrate the sparks in the words of Scotland’s national poet.”

Paula Ward, Regional Leadership Director – South Scotland at VisitScotland, says:

‘Scotland offers the perfect stage to celebrate our national bard and we are pleased to be supporting Burnsfest as part of Scotland’s Winter Festivals. This year’s programme at the Scottish Storytelling Centre will bring locals and visitors together to enjoy Burns’ work in Edinburgh’s atmospheric Old Town.’

Burns for Brunch

It’s 2020, and the Bard is back! Though a little worse for wear, Rabbie wakes up in Auld Reekie and he’s not holding back with his take on current affairs.

2019 Fringe success Burns for Brunch is an intimate one-man show, featuring poems, songs, sharp wit humour and a wee dram of sarcasm, which promises a thoroughly entertaining Burns experience, as fresh as a close shave.

Actor Gavin Paul states:

“I’ve played the serious side of him a lot over the last few years so it is refreshing to play him in a more satirical light, and you can’t go wrong with a bit of audience participation, or can you?  Come sit near the front and we will find out!”

Burns Traditions for Young and Old

Kicking off the Burns entertainment on Tue 21 Jan, all ages are invited to join the Scots Music Group in the Storytelling Court for a Café Ceilidh, promising a relaxed afternoon session of the Bard’s songs, poems and stories.

Of course, Burns Night wouldn’t be the same without a traditional Burns Supper, which dates back to 1801 when on the 5th anniversary of his death, friends gathered to remember their dear fellow and his work. For those unacquainted with the long-standing tradition or wanting to discover more about Burns, the SSC’s Supper with Burns on Thu 24 and Fri 25 Jan is the perfect opportunity to experience a traditional Burns Supper with a storytelling twist.

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

Burns had a sense of egalitarianism and believed in freedom. His humanity was incredible and that really captures people’s imagination. 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.”

Along with a delicious three-course meal of Scottish delicacies, 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 a lively rendition of ‘Tam O’ Shanter’ by Daniel Allison.

Ceilidh House Burns Special

With a strong sense of community in mind, the SSC’s Ceilidh House, in collaboration with TRACS Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, looks to older traditions and incorporates music and storytelling in addition to dance, reviving the traditional meaning of the Scottish word ‘ceilidh’ for a modern audience.

David Francis, Director of TRACS Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland explains:

“The Ceilidh House brings music, dance and storytelling together for contemporary audiences, with resonances of the way these art forms were all part of the same convivial, social experience for our forebears. It’s a great way to participate and experience some of the best performers.”

Wee ones get the chance to enjoy their own Family Ceilidh in the early afternoon, with live music and tunes for dancing, peppered with the occasional Burns story if there’s time around all the merry movement!

Taking Burns Further

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

Donald Smith is running a workshop Tam O’ Shanter: Telling the Big Tale, sharing his life’s journey with Burns, looking at the meaning and interpretation of his poetry, as well as performance and artistic challenges when trying to do Burn’s justice.

Speaking about the afternoon, Smith explains:

“Burns is a dramatist as well as a lyrical genius. Tam O’ Shanter is his masterpiece, but actually everything he wrote cries out to be performed!”

“He’s a much richer, broader topic than assumed and exploring Burns’ themes through one of his seminal works will showcase the genius of Scotland’s Bard, as well as inform participants in the subtleties of this classic.”

Tam O’ Shanter is an old Scottish legend that Robert Burns turned into his popular narrative poem. It follows Tam, a man who never follows his wife’s advice and stays out all hours drinking, who one night chances on witches, gathered to dance to the devil’s bagpipes and he must flee for his life! A fantastic epic that lends itself to performance, interpretation and entertainment.

Both at home and abroad, Robert Burns remains a celebrated and influential figure and the SSC’s Burns Night festivities have become an intrinsic part of Scotland’s Winter Festivals, reflecting the true essence of Scottish cultural identity – creativity, pride and confidence – for a fun January.

Tam O’SHANTER: Telling the Big Tale
Sat 18 Jan at 2pm (2hrs 30) | £16 (£12 FM)
Café Ceilidh: Burns Celebration
Tue 21 Jan at 2pm (2hrs) | Free
SUpper with burns (sold out friday)
Thu 23 & FrI 24 Jan at 7pm (2hrs 30) | £30
Burns for brunch
Sat 25 Jan at 12pm & 3.30pm (1hr) | £10 (£8) (£7.50 SCS) | 14+
Family ceilidh (sold out) 
sat 25 Jan at 1.30pm (1hr 30) | £5 (£4.50 SCS) | all ages
The Ceilidh House: TAM o’Shanter
sat 25 Jan at 7.30pm (2hrs) | £10 (£8) (£7.50 SCS)

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