The ten-day Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival got off to a great start at the weekend with the bumper 40th Anniversary programme officially opened at an evening reception attended by Ms Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.
Scotland’s largest rural performing arts festival held an official reception at Easterbrook Hall for around 100 invited guests, including former board members, sponsors, funders, Honorary Patron Dame Barbara Kelly and former Festival Secretary Jill Hardy.
Speeches were delivered by Chair of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, Ken Gouge, Dani Rae, the Festival’s new Director and the Cabinet Secretary who spoke of the importance of culture and tourism to South of Scotland and the recent investment made in the area. Ken Gouge and Dani Rae made tributes to those who pioneered the festival in 1979, loyal sponsors and funders, the small core staff team and to the dedicated work of local communities, many of whom are volunteers, within Scotland’s third largest region.
A 40th celebratory three tier cake was designed by Dumfries company, Creative Cakes, and officially cut by Dame Barbara Kelly and Chair of the festival’s Young Promoter’s Group, Catriona McGhie from Stranraer.
Ms Hyslop stayed to attend Friday’s Opening Night public performance of Morna Young’s Lost at Sea, presented by Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts, and performed by a ten-strong cast to an audience of nearly 300 people. The play is a personal tribute to Scottish fishing communities and on seeing it, described by the Cabinet Secretary as “powerful” saying she was “delighted to join Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival at the launch with such a great programme”.
On Saturday Dumfries witnessed a High Street Take Over with the Young Promoters Group offering a Picnic at the Plainstanes (Saturday 25 May) with specially designed ‘game boards’ on picnic benches contributed by Dumfries company, Plaswood. The afternoon’s entertainment included free performances from local dance troop, Razzmattaz, music from local musicians, Rose Byers and Catriona McGhie and thrilling acrobatic acts from professional company ARS Entertainment.
Arts Festival tickets are flying out of the door with five sell-outs so far, including folk music legends Martin & Eliza Carthy at Moffat Town Hall and Team Viking by Tangram Theatre at Mill on the Fleet. The 40th Anniversary programme includes 50 events across 34 regional venues staging award-winning theatre, music, contemporary dance and comedy and will close this weekend (Sunday 2 June) with the Closing Collaboration: Home & Horizon at Lockerbie Town Hall (15:00).
This very last event is a collaboration between Scotland’s top musicians and the region’s home-grown talent including the exceptional talents of Emily Smith, Robyn Stapleton, Wendy Stewart, Aaron Jones, Clare Mann, Jamie McClennan and Tom Pow alongside the formidable Scottish Ensemble, performing a suite of music, song and spoken word, curated by Alison Burns.
Over the arts festival’s final weekend, Dumfries & Stranraer will host west-end, sell-out and hilarious footie comedy – The Red Lion by Rapture Theatre (The Ryan Centre, Friday 31 May and Theatre Royal, Saturday 1 June). Castle Douglas and Stranraer venues will also host multi-award winning gig theatre, Electrolyte, by Wildcard Theatre, a smash hit at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe (The Town Hall, Castle Douglas, Friday 31 May and Fitba Bar, Stranraer, Saturday 1 June). Three short, family shows performed by Scottish Opera in their pop-up opera truck will also park up at Logan Botanic Gardens, near Stranraer (Friday 31 May, 11.00, 13.00 and 15.00).
The 40th Anniversary programme of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival centres on everyday challenges and triumphs with the themes of love, loss and a sense of place woven throughout it.
To see the remaining programme for the 40th Anniversary of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, visit www.dgartsfestival.org.uk