Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Review of Open Stage, Burns Night, Dumfries

Songwriters and poets queued up to get their fingers burned at the Station Hotel, Friday last, to the sound of guest musician Alan McClure, and the words of guest poet, Rab Wilson. These two fronted a varied evening of songs and poems. Alan performed a set of five of his own songs, from a disturbing memoir of the slave trade, to a haunting love song that had ‘em weeping into their beer. Alan accompanied himself on guitar, at times with heavy rhythm, at others with haunting lyricism. Rab gave us a snippet of vintage Burns, sharp as loch water and you could smell the byre. He talked about the relevance of the poet to modern Scottish poets and poetry. He completed the set with two poems of his own, including a hilarious modern day version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

They were ably supported by local poets and musicians, who gave us Hugh McDiarmid and more Rabbie Burns set to music, including one singer who was pulled from the audience to perform My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose. The poets too tackled a variety of subjects, from a winter’s day, to a cloud of dust, with narrative poems of childhood and memory in Scots, and a speculation on what happened to Tam O’Shanter, the morning after! Guitars, plugged and unplugged, including a mean electric bass, supported a raft of singers, singles, doubles, and threesomes, that treated us to a wonderful range of music from the margins of traditional unaccompanied to the shores of rock.

Nicola Black hosted with warmth and talent, and the audience buzzed from start to finish. If I had one suggestion to make, it would be that it would be good to hear more poetry, from more poets, next time. Come on you poets! Next Open Stage is Friday 29 February.
Review contributed by Mike Smith.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Robert Burns Fellowship Talks 2008

Please note change to date of Talk at Bladnoch on Mon 21st January - see below!

Dumfries & Galloway has an opportunity to mark the Burns season with a difference, in the form of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association’s Robert Burns Fellowship Talks. DGAA started this series of events in 2004 when Hamish MacDonald held the post of Burns Fellow, in order to look at the contemporary relevance of Robert Burns. This year is the turn of new postholder Rab Wilson.

Rab will be reading Burns poems and drawing out some of the big themes in Burns’ work, while looking at the way some contemporary writers have responded to those themes. The Talks begin on 17 January at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries in association with the Saltire Society, Dumfries and District Branch, who are launching a book of poems, some in Scots, by local members and friends.

Thurs 17 January Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries
Wed 23 January Buccleuch Centre, Langholm
Tues 29 January Cat Strand, New Galloway
Wed 30 January The Bruce, High Street, Annan
Thurs 31 January Kirkconnel Parish Heritage, The Cabin, Main St, Kirkconnel
Mon 4 February Stranraer Museum

All the talks begin at 7pm and are free.

Rab is rapidly becoming one of Scotland’s foremost Scots language poets. He is a charismatic performer and is in demand nationally as a speaker. Recently, he has spoken about the Scots language at conferences in Glasgow and Belfast. Rab is already a popular figure in Dumfries & Galloway. The last few months have seen him talking about Scots literature to reading groups, and travelling with the mobile libraries, reading Scots poems to library users.

DGAA’s Literature Development officer Andrew Forster says: ‘Traditional Burns nights are great fun but each year we like to do something a little different. The Burns Fellowship talks look at an aspect of Burns that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. In the past we’ve looked at the marketing of Burns and at Burns as a radical poet. This year we’ll be looking at the way Burns’ concerns are still alive for writers today.’

But be warned. Do come early. Andrew says ‘The Burns talks are one of our most popular events. In the past we’ve had capacity audiences at both Bladnoch and in Dumfries, so people should come in plenty of time to ensure a good seat!’

Women Poets of the Borders

Make the trip to the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh to hear four Women Poets of the Borders reading from their new chapbooks published by Selkirk Lapwing Press. The reading is at 2pm on Saturday 16 February at the Scottish Poetry Library in Crichton's Close off the Royal Mile.

Vivien Jones lives in Powfoot in Dumfries & Galloway. She is one of the driving forces behind the Crichton Writers, and in 2007 made her second appearance at the region's much praised Poetry Doubles series. Her dramatic writing has been performed around the region, and her poems and stories have been published in magazines and anthologies including New Writing Scotland and the Scotsman Orange Competition anthology.