Festival fever takes over region

Festival honorary president Dame Barbara Kelly with Les Impromptues.
Festival honorary president Dame Barbara Kelly with Les Impromptues.

Festival fever has taken the region by storm as the 38th Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival rolls out its 2017 programme.

Scotland’s largest rural performing arts festival kicked off on Friday with a welcome reception held in the Easterbrook Hall’s Duncan Rooms. In attendance were patrons, supporters and dignitaries who heard festival chair, Ken Gouge, officially open the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival’s most diverse and ambitious programme to date.

Leading the programme on its opening night, award-winning Scottish singer songwriter Karine Polwart put on an outstanding performance of Wind Resistance in a packed-out Easterbrook Hall. In her first solo theatre piece, Karine held people spellbound with an emotional and beautiful show which drew laughter and tears from her audience.

So far, the region’s audiences have been treated to a full programme of music, theatre and comedy as well as an amazing sound and visual piece on Sandyhills beach over the weekend and an immersive solo exploration of the Frankenstein story by Edinburgh circus artist and theatre maker Phil Hardie.

Some of the best highlights of the festival have been produced by Scotland’s young musicians. On Saturday, the Tinderbox Orchestra gave a lively, energetic concert with young musicians from the region at the Theatre Royal while the Universities of Scotland Symphony Orchestra performed Holst’s Planet Suites in a professional, moving and rousing performance that delighted audiences in Lockerbie town hall.

Still to come this week is a duo of concerts by one of Scotland’s favourite trad bands, Blazin’ Fiddles. They play at Newton Stewart Cinema on Wednesday night and their guests will be Bellevue Rendezvous. Blazin’ Fiddles then move to Dumfries’ Easterbrook Hall on Thursday night when they will welcome two of the region’s top Scots trad singers: Claire Hastings, from Dumfries, and Robyn Stapleton, from Stranraer.

Bellevue Rendezvous return to the stage on Friday with a concert in the Fullarton Theatre, Castle Douglas, with guests Laura Beth Slater and Wigtownshire musician Jenn Butterworth. Headed-up by Journeyman frontman, Gavin Marwick, Bellevue Rendezvous is a local-based trio of musicians who say they plunder Europe for interesting tunes. The performance is part of the launch of their new album, While Rome Burns.

Anyone who enjoyed Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance will love Mairi Campbell’s amazing one woman show PULSE which comes to the CatStrand, New Galloway, on Friday at 7.30pm and to the Theatre Royal, Dumfries, on Saturday at 5pm. This extraordinary, life-affirming show is a tour de force for this popular award-winning Scots musician. It has been described as deeply touching, funny and potent and is a significant development in Mairi’s artistry.

Four poets, four academics and four shorelines will feature in the first event of Dumfries and Galloway-based InSight – a collaboration between cultural critics and arts practitioners. The event will explore the visual, natural and personal connections between four landmasses which are all visible from each other: South West Scotland, the Isle of Man, Cumbria and Northern Ireland.

A full programme is available from www.dgartsfestival.org.uk