Dumfries honours Robert Burns with big supper celebration

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Image caption,
Deacon Blue are among the acts taking part in the second edition of the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries

When I was growing up, it always seemed a slightly morbid thing to celebrate - being the place where somebody died.

Most lunch-breaks at secondary school I would walk past the final resting place of Scotland's national bard.

And, on more adventurous cycle runs, I passed near the spot where he took an ill-advised treatment in the waters which may or may not have helped finish him off.

In Dumfries, the death of Robert Burns is all around you.

Nowadays, however, I realise there is a little more to the connection than that.

Ayrshire is rightly proud to claim Burns as a son, but he also spent a significant part of his life among the Doonhamers and wrote some of his finest works in the town.

Rather than some kind of rivalry over who has the right to claim him, they can both celebrate his significance.

Burns suppers, held on or around his birthday on 25 January, are the most traditional means of honouring the man and have been on the go for more than 200 years.

They have spread out around the world and follow pretty much the same format no matter where they are held.

Image caption,
The haggis is central to the traditional Burns supper celebration

A haggis, some poetry and, perhaps, a dram or two, are among their key elements.

But, last year in Dumfries, they decided to give the concept a bit of a twist.

The Big Burns Supper featured 80 events covering music, dance, comedy, theatre and art across 40 different venues.

The two-day programme kicked off with an outdoor spectacular on the banks of the River Nith.

"I hope we can be the springboard to bring them more culture and shows and comedy," the organisers said at the time.

They appear to have taken that ambition to heart with a similar programme for this year's proceedings.

Deacon Blue, Dougie MacLean and Eddi Reader are among those taking part in a programme which once again stretches over numerous venues.

This year will also see the use of a Spiegeltent for the first time.

It adds up to a very different way of marking the birth of Scotland's most famous poet.

Not all of it, perhaps, will appeal to purists who may feel there are better ways to honour Burns.

However, it is all definitely a bit more vibrant than how I thought of things in my youth.