Edinburgh to extend winter festival season with Burns-inspired cultural event

The founders of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations are to launch a new week-long arts festival across the city's Old and New Towns in 2019 to mark the birthday of Robert Burns.

Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 12:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th November 2018, 12:04 pm
Museum of the Moon a seven metre-wide inflatable will be at St Giles Cathedral for the Burns & Beyond event which runs from 22-27 January. Picture: contributed

The Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council are funding Burns & Beyond, which is aimed at becoming a major annual cultural celebration at one of the quietest times of the year in the city’s tourism calendar.

The £250,000 event will see producers Unique Events revive the format of Scot:Lands, a hugely popular “culture trail” staged in historic venues on New Year’s Day for several years.

Although many events will be inspired by the life and legacy of Scotland’s world-famous poet, Burns & Beyond is billed as a wider celebration of the “best and brightest of Scotland’s cultural landscape”.

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Venues across Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns will be hosting free and ticketed events during the festival, including the Saturday night “culture trail” that will deploy some of the city’s most historic spaces.

Live music, comedy, visual art, spoken word, poetry, ceilidh dances and food and drink events will all be staged as part of the new festival.

The Marketing Edinburgh agency and business group Essential Edinburgh are also throwing their weight behind the new event, which will extend the city’s winter festival longer than ever before to more than ten weeks.

Among the highlights of the festival, which will coincide with the 260th anniversary of the birth of Burns, will be the transformation of St Giles Cathedral by a vast inflatable recreation of the moon, featuring reproductions of detailed NASA imagery of its lunar surface, which English artist Luke Jerram has toured around the world since 2016.

Special events featuring singer-songwriters Roddy Woomble and Rachel Sermanni and the cathedral’s choir will be staged to accompany the display of the seven metre-wide “Museum of the Moon”.

The full programme for the festival, which runs from 22-27 January and coincides with the 260th anniversary of the birth of Burns, will be revealed next month. But key venues will include the Rose Theatre, the year-round arts venue run by Edinburgh-based promoters Gilded Balloon, and the Freemasons Hall on George Street, one of the most popular New Town Fringe venues.

Unique Events, who produced Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations from 1993 until 2016, previously launched a Burns festival in the poet’s native Ayrshire in 2002, which Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Nicola Benedetti, Edwyn Collins and Pete Doherty all appeared at.

Alan Thomson, director of Unique Events, said: “We think it’s a really interesting time of year to do an event like this. Burns Night has always been relatively forgotten in Edinburgh’s calendar. There have been individual events before, but they’ve always been run by individual venues. We really want to make this a big new annual event for the city.”

Paul Wakefield, head of marketing at Marketing Edinburgh, said: “As a strategic priority for the city, we are committed to promoting Edinburgh’s off-season offering to encourage a steady flow of visitors throughout the year, not just at Christmas and during our busy summer festival season. With a series of events taking place across the city, Burns & Beyond showcases not only the city’s wide array of venues, but our ability to put on exciting, world-class events outside of the traditional tourist season.”