South Scotland

Big Burns Supper in Dumfries just keeps getting bigger

Haggis meal Image copyright Thinkstock

The humble haggis has a lot to answer for.

It played a role in the origins of the Big Burns Supper festival which has now become a major part of the entertainment scene in the south of Scotland.

According to the man behind the event, Graham Main, it all really started at a Burns Supper in the poet's former home at Ellisland Farm.

That kick-started his passion for the Bard which resulted in the first Big Burns Supper in Dumfries in 2012.

"I suppose we are trying to create a whole big Burns supper throughout the town," said Mr Main back then.

Image copyright Archie MacFarlane
Image caption Emily Smith was among the acts at the first edition of the Big Burns Supper

"A kind of metaphorical Burns supper where everyone is gathered round the table and each of the venues plays its part in doing that."

Singer Eddi Reader was involved in that first edition (as she is this year) as was award-winning folk singer Emily Smith and local band Finding Albert.

In total, there were 80 different events in 40 different venues.

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

The following year, it added the Spiegeltent venue to its attractions and included artists like Deacon Blue and Dougie MacLean.

Snow forced the cancellation of a "mass participation" opening show planned in the town centre but the other events went ahead as planned.

By 2014, the scale of its ambitions had clearly grown as the now three-day programme was one of the opening events of Homecoming Scotland.

Image copyright Colin Tennant
Image caption Big Country are one of the groups to have performed at the Speigeltent venue over the years

Big Country, the Mull Historical Society and Dick Gaughan were among the acts brought to the town.

But it was last year that it really exploded in scale as it stretched over nine days.

Hue and Cry, The Undertones and comedian Craig Hill headlined the main festival but there was also a "festival within a festival" for north-west Dumfries.

There was scarcely a corner you could turn without some publicity for the event being found.

And its cabaret Le Haggis show was very much at the heart of proceedings.

Image copyright Other
Image caption This year will see ska band The Beat perform at the Big Burns Supper

However, with the growth came reports of artists still waiting to be paid many months after the festival.

A failure to file accounts also raised concerns but both issues were, ultimately, addressed by organisers.

That paved the way for another nine-day extravaganza to be staged in the south of Scotland town once again this year.

The Bay City Rollers, The Beat, Black Grape and Eddi Reader - of course - are on the menu this time around.

It gives a buzz to the streets of Dumfries the likes of which it was certainly not used to in the cold, dark Januarys of years gone by.

And to think it all grew from a toast to the haggis.

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