From Alan Thomson, Area Arts Convenor for Annandale and Eskdale
Just as there is a sudden flowering of events and festivals across our region each May, this time of year also brings a burgeoning crop of activity. They make the most of the last vestiges of decent summer weather and the longer evenings.
This rich harvest kicked off with the inaugural Electric Fields, when Annan favourites, More from Jim, Sheepwagon and Cammy Black opened the lid on a feast of terrific music. Great programming and the perfect mix of the best local bands, plus Glasgow’s indy finest, will surely ensure a successful future for this ambitious event.
Another first the following weekend saw an invasion of Carlisle, as D&G writers and book enthusiasts swarmed all over Border Lines. The city’s long overdue first book festival was aimed unashamedly at the local market and high profile Cumbrian writers and broadcasters spoke to large and enthusiastic audiences.
A final first was the Huge Festival, a MacDiarmid tribute in Langholm last weekend. The wisdom of staging this celebration of a man, who had flirted with fascism before converting, via nationalism, to communism, just days before the referendum was debated long and hard in the licensed premises of the Muckle Toon.
The organisers David Calladine and Ruth Cockburn, both self-confessed incomers to the town, were vindicated though when a large turn out of volunteers and participants enjoyed a full day of activities. A four hour poetry pilgrimage followed the poet’s journey from the cradle to the grave with site specific readings at 20 locations. The diehards who completed this marathon were fortified by nips of MacDiarmid’s favourite Glenmorangie - the event sponsors.
Looking ahead, but only as far as this evening (19th Sept), Alex McQuiston’s Absolute Classics season kicks off in Annan, with a return visit of the amazing Soraya Mafi. Although diminutive in stature Soraya has the most powerful soprano voice, which coupled with her flirtatious personality and acting prowess always delights audiences.
A different line up of crowd pleasers will take to the stage at Lockerbie Jazz Festival the following weekend. Headliners Maggie Bell, the BBC Big Band and New Orleans clarinet star. Evan Christopher will be joined by a range of talented musicians across different jazz and blues genres to provide a full weekend of good music.
A Sunday afternoon programme in Moffat is on offer this year, and the usual Saturday afternoon Take 5 will deliver an incredible 15 hours of music across two venues and three stages. A feature of the 2014 Festival will be the input from local community and youth groups who have been practicing hard with professional tutors. Then, the next weekend again, we will have an array of international authors, poets and academics in Moffat for the Lermontov 200 Conference, celebrating the great poet’s bicentenary and his Scottish heritage.
How can so much be happening in a small area like Annandale and Eskdale? And if you think, after this surfeit, that things will then be a bit quiet in the east, check out the Buccleuch Centre programme, one of their best yet. Lunasa, Eddi Reader, Clare Teal, Martin Taylor, Archie Fisher, Absolute Classics and Scottish Opera are all appearing in October!