Arts Festival officially launched to great excitement

John Gilderdale-Smith, from Castle Douglas; Zoe Bestel, of Wigtown; Robyn Stapleton from Stranraer; and Deri Ronan, of Thornhill.
John Gilderdale-Smith, from Castle Douglas; Zoe Bestel, of Wigtown; Robyn Stapleton from Stranraer; and Deri Ronan, of Thornhill.

Broader, bigger and better are the buzz words for this year’s Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.

Wednesday night marked the official launch of the highly anticipated programme of Scotland’s largest rural performing arts festival.

This year features 82 events in 42 venues over a 2,500-square-mile stage during 10 days from May 22 to 31 and will include a rich mix of world-class performances to suit all ages and tastes.

The programme was launched at a musical reception at Loch Arthur, Beeswing, to festival patrons and supporters. Over 70 people turned out on the evening to help the festival celebrate the new programme and the launch of its new-look website.

As usual, the evening’s entertainment took the form of a showcase of the talent of young Dumfries and Galloway musicians. Singer Deri Ronan, of Thornhill, and violinist John Gilderdale-Smith, from Castle Douglas, entertained a delighted audience for the first part of the evening.

A highlight of the night was a set of songs by award-winning Stranraer singer Robyn Stapleton who will be performing during the festival in May.

Now in its 36th year, the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival continues to attract some of the world’s most renowned performing artists in music, theatre, comedy and dance to venues large and small throughout the Region

The festival opens on May 22 with a spectacular classical performance by the Scottish Ensemble in Dumfries’ Easterbrook Hall and Comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli performing at the Corner House Hotel Annan

Festival chair, Ken Gouge, said: “I am both trilled and proud to be announcing the launch of the 2015 Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival programme.

“We have some truly wonderful acts booked for this year, ranging from world-class music, to award-winning performers and the world premiere of an exciting music project of historical importance.”

Highlights of this year’s festival include a 90-minute history of comedy by the highly acclaimed Reduced Shakespeare Company; 21st century music by rising stars of rap and hip-hop Reece Robertson and Stanley Odd; a 10-piece folk spectacular with Gavin Marwick’s Journeyman; Jaipur brass sounds by the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band; a concert by last year’s BBC Radio Folk Awards Singer of the Year Bella Hardy; timeless classics from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; amazing stand-up with TV funny men Hardeep Singh Kohli and Des Clarke; and drama from the highly acclaimed Dogstar, Horse and Bamboo and Mimika theatre companies.

The world premiere of McMath: The Silent Page will take place at the Ryan Centre in Stranraer during the festival. The concert is the culmination of an unusual project undertaken by some of Dumfries and Galloway’s top folk musicians - Ali Burns, Aaron Jones, Clare Mann, Emily Smith, Jamie McLennan, Robyn Stapleton and Wendy Stewart - who have come together to sing new Life to William MacMath’s forgotten Scottish Song collection, found in Broughton House, Kirkcudbright.

Ken added: “This year’s programme is an endorsement of the hard work and strong support that has gone into making the 36th Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival the best to date. We really look forward to seeing everyone at the end of May.”

The festival booking office opens to the general public on May 17 and tickets may be purchased from the box office at Midsteeple, Dumfries, telephone 01387 253383.

Programmes are widely available from outlets across the region or can be downloaded in digital format from the festival’s brand new website: