DG Arts Festival Celebrates 45th Year With Biggest Audiences Ever

Scotland’s Largest Rural Performing Arts Festival celebrated its 45th Festival with higher audience attendance than ever before with their highly ambitious and exciting programme of events.

Over 3200 people attended the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival with world-class theatre, music, dance, comedy and spoken word brought to the heart of communities across the region this May. It was a celebration of local and national artists and the thriving arts scene in the region we call home.

The Festival team brought 39 events to 28 venues across the length and breadth of the region. Through the highly ambitious and exciting programme of events, they were able to support a bigger team of freelancers than ever before, further enhancing the incredible events economy of the region and supporting local creative practitioners, businesses and suppliers as well as building relationships that will last a lifetime.

Opening the Festival this year was the sell-out Galloway SangStreams: Songs linking life, land and legacy by The Cairn Chorus at Easterbook Hall. It has been hailed as a huge success with audiences so excited to see where this local collaboration project goes next and traveling from far and wide to see the show. The team had to keep putting additional chairs out on the night as audiences turned up in their droves to celebrate these local artists.

One audience member stated “The whole thing was superb and poignant, and connected with the hills we had been walking and the beautiful landscape and care for it. Every element of it was special, so big kudos to you all.”

The Festival also featured regional theatre favourite James Rowland with his show Piece of Work which brought audiences to tears with his poignant storytelling of his relationship with his brother and his family. Also new regional favourite Raymond Wilson who brought his 2023 Made in Scotland show I Hope Your Flowers Bloom to Moffat and New Galloway and blew audiences away with his exploration of working class access to nature and insightful explorations of healthy masculinity.

The Authentic Artists Collective brought When Mountains Meet to a packed Castle Douglas Town Hall with their breathtaking blend of gig theatre, storytelling and striking visuals from international storytellers and musicians in an unforgettable voyage from the Scottish Highlands to the Himalayas.

Shona Cowie and Neil Sutcliffe performed their show With the Devils Assistance to a sold out audience in Eskdalemuir and to Kirkcudbright where the show ended with an impromptu tour inspired by the themes of the play of the witch trials and how woman can take back their power when it comes to communities and planning for our future offering a purposeful examination of feminism and the patriarchy.

The Festival also saw a return of the World Famous Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint bringing their delicious lunchtime theatre offer ROOST to Moffat, Dumfries and Stranraer with audiences stating that it was poignant and had ‘brought a tear to their eye’.

The Festival hosted the I Am Loud South of Scotland Poetry Slam Regional Heat at The Stove in Dumfries as part of the nationwide Slam Series where 10 poets competed for the prize.

Emma Porteous, Project & Communications Manager at the D&G Arts Festival was asked to be one of the judges for the evening and she stated “those who competed made being a judge an impossible task, they were all incredible and we all left feeling so inspired to get involved and make sure there are more spoken word opportunities in the region for these kind of nights and it was great to see local Poet and Scottish Scriever Susi Briggs perform on the night”

The team offer huge congratulations to Aditya & Noor who will join the other finalists at the Grand Slam Final with the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the 10th August.

As well as utilising venues right across the Dumfries & Galloway, the team also partnered with outdoor spaces to bring Cirqulation to Castle Douglas and Crawick Multiverse. The circus extravaganza brought over 800 people to Lochside Park in Castle Douglas in partnership with the Castle Douglas Development Forum with community members commenting how great it was to see the space used for such a wonderful event, bringing communities together for the day. Crawick Multiverse also hosted a sell out event with 300 tickets sold at the incredible land art installation in Upper Nithsdale famed for becoming a must see sight for Instagram and TiK Tok fanatics due to the beauty of the visitor attractions landforms.

The Willow Trio also brought their highly acclaimed show The Swan of Salen to a sold out audience at The Swallow Theatre and Johnstonebridge Community Centre who were in awe of the wonderful multimedia adaptation of the heartbreaking tragedy of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake the parallel Gaelic legend featuring enchanting music and stunning footage of choreography.

Music was a key focus during the 45th programme and the Festival partnered with the groundbreaking UP YER AIRTS to launch their incredibly successful campaign to get audiences to #SupportLiveMusicDG so that they can ensure the future of the vital industry that thrives in the region and bring more artists to play as part of their national tours.

To kick off the campaign, UP YER AIRTS hosted a night with the incredible VALTOS and Dlù and local band Tiderays at the newly reopened Loreburn Hall and the feedback from the night was incredible.

One audience member stated “what a great night, great music and atmosphere and we can’t wait to see more events like this happen in the region.”

The night was sponsored by Developing the Young Workforce Dumfries & Galloway and UP YER AIRTS sponsor The People’s Project who supported the team to hire a full team of young people to take on roles such as front of house, stage management, lighting and stewarding. The bands were blown away by the hospitality of both The Loreburn Hall and the UP YER AIRTS crew and it is going to be the start of an exciting events programme for the region after the success of the first gig.

Liam Russell, Creative Producer behind UP YER AIRTS said “VALTOS supported by DLU and Tiderays in Loreburn Hall marked the start of our campaign to support live music in Dumfries and Galloway. We have a number of young person led projects in the works that will continue this work over the next few years with a view to solidify the existing music industry framework within the region, supporting local artists and venues along the way.”

The Festival also featured a very special tribute to the legacy of the past 45 years with a Celebration Concert at Easterbrook Hall welcoming team members, patrons and board members new and old as well as a wave of public support to mark the 45 years of history that had led the Festival to this point in it’s journey in supporting a thriving performing arts industry of the region. On the night, there was an exhibition, curated by team members Aisling Anderson and Emma Porteous of memorabilia to share the legacy that had inspired them to create a future for the organisation in the region.

The night, programmed by Liam Russell and Emma Porteous was one that will be remembered for years to come. Liam, brought 3 incredible young acts that he’s worked with throughout his time at the D&G Arts Festival including Will Archibald, Kate Kyle and Sarah Turner and Emma Porteous programmed the second half of the evening with Claire Hastings and The Lucky Doves as well as featuring collaborations from Claire Hastings and Grant Dinwoodie singing Wild Mountain Thyme and The Lucky Doves and Kate Kyle ending the evening with the audience on the dancefloor for a beautiful cover of Auld Lang Syne.

Programmers of the night Liam and Emma were delighted to share some of their favourite musicians with audiences and showcase their skills in creating another night of great entertainment and support to the performing arts industry in Dumfries & Galloway.

As well as the 45th Concert, Emma and Liam also programmed a sold out trad night at The Vault Arts Centre in Newton Stewart with headliners Aaron Jones and Rachel Walker and young support acts Rose Byers and new upcoming band Lussa. The night was the start of an exciting partnership with the venue and Liam and Emma are excited to bring more music back to the town in the coming months.

Scottish Opera also delighted audiences new and old alike with sold out performances in Wigtown and packed hall in Moniaive for the last weekend with one young audience member quoting ‘it was amazing’ and the team were delighted to see the start of a life long love as a child for opera.

One of the closing acts of the Festival this year was Connor Burns, whose show was an absolute steal at the Loreburn Hall, with the comedian promising to head back to Dumfries in 2025 on his new tour and with the news of his upcoming gigs it sounds like he will be a much bigger name as he is headed for stardom with his laugh out loud whit and quick fire jokes. His support act Daniel Petrie, doctor by day, comedian by night as he did a shift in DGRI just to help out during the day since he was here also went down a storm. Both showcasing the best of the business by taking time with fans after the show and both will be welcomed back to the region with open arms for their next tour.

Councillor Ian Blake, Chair of the Communities Committee of Dumfries and Galloway Council said, “The cultural life of our region has been enhanced since 1979 by the Arts Festival. The festival organisers have always tried to cover the whole of Dumfries and Galloway and their 45th anniversary programme was very strong. Our area is the envy of many other parts of Scotland and the UK for our cultural life and identity, and the Arts Festival have played a major role in this development over the decades.”

The team had a fantastic Festival travelling the region and getting to the heart of all the different communities that they work with throughout the year. There have been some exciting partnerships built due to the success of the events this year and the team are ready to get started planning more ambitious and incredible events right across Dumfries & Galloway.

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