Burns Festival

Burns Festival

Locals and visitors alike were presented with a wide and varied programme of events which were well attended and, I am sure, enjoyed by all.

The programme of fringe events throughout Ayrshire was varied and diverse and those taking part showed that there is real talent in this part of the world. I have received feedback from some foreign guests that confirms that Ayrshire has a lot to offer and what was offered was very much enjoyed.

The programme of main events was equally well received. The Turnberry concerts provided three very different evenings set in the beautiful grounds of The Westin Turnberry Hotel on the Ayrshire coast. Whilst, the weather may not have been ideal, the entertainment definitely hit the right notes.

Nicky Spence looked dashing in his pinstripe kilt suit and his rendition of Burns songs was both beautiful and moving. Katherine Jenkins added a touch of glamour and entertained the audience with her stunning Welsh voice. Both stars were accompanied by the Orchestra of the Scottish Opera and all provided a fantastic start to the concert series.

On Saturday night, Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, together with guests Sam Brown, Ruby Turner and Eddie Reader had the audience almost jumping to his inimitable style of music.

Sunday night saw The Royal Scottish National Orchestra accompanying Eddie Reader, Karen Matheson and Phil Cunningham. The weather had brightened and the crowd were happily clapping and stamping their feet to the traditional Scottish sounds.

The Mauchline Holy Fair on Saturday was also a big hit. Lots of people braved the rain to be entertained by screaming preachers; living statues; local amateur drama groups and the sounds of The Audreys; Michael Marra and Karen Matheson.

The two Fresh Ayr concerts were very different, but drew the crowds out to the town centre on Saturday and Sunday night. The Proclaimers brought Wellington Square alive and it seemed that thousands walked the 500 miles with them through the town. On Sunday night the town had a youthful look about it as the young (and possibly not so young) were entertained by Sons and Daughters. The concerts were followed by a spectacular fireworks display on the Low Green.

For me, the highlight of the Festival was The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. This year the award ceremony took place in Ayr Town Hall and was, for the first time, an event in its own right.

We were extremely fortunate to have three of the shortlisted nominees represented at the event this year. The award was made posthumously to Marla Ruzicka, who, was, in the words of one obituary, “an extraordinary, one-person American aid agency, who worked tirelessly to get compensation for victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Though only 28 when she died – killed by a car bomb in Baghdad in April 2005 - she had spent much of her life helping ordinary people whose lives had been shattered by conflict.

Marla’s sister, Jill Leighton travelled from Los Angeles to collect the award. Whilst video footage provided details of Marla’s work, Jill gave the audience an insight into Marla the person; the sister.

I would like to say thank you to all those involved in this year’s Festival and to those who attended so many of the events. I hope that we can build on this year and make the Burns an’ a’ that! Festival 2007 even bigger and better.