Organisers of Scotland’s largest performing arts festival are celebrating the success of their most diverse programme to date.
The 38th Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival kicked-off on the evening of Friday, 26 May with Karine Polwart’s beautiful and emotional performance of Wind Resistance to a packed Easterbrook Hall. The event, sponsored by the University of Glasgow, the University of the West of Scotland and Open University Scotland, set the bar for more full houses and sell-out shows in music, drama, dance, the spoken word and comedy over the 10-day run of the festival.
Audiences reported a real festival buzz this year and highlights were many. Of particular note were the high-octane concerts from Blazin’ Fiddles with Claire Hastings and Robyn Stapleton at the Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries, and with Bellevue Rendezvous in Newton Stewart Cinema.
The crowds turned out in the sunshine to experience one of the festival’s most unusual events, Vision Mechanics’ Drift. Sandyhills beach was turned into a world of sound and vision as people downed their buckets and spades and immersed themselves in the story of a Shetland crofter who was cast adrift on the North Sea for nine days.
Many of this year’s shows sold out before the festival began, including the pre-festival production of the National Theatre of Scotland’s 306:Day in Lockerbie; Joan Eardley: A Private View at Gracefield Arts Centre; and Scottish Opera at Threave Gardens. The Cairn Chorus also enjoyed performing their spectacular Cairn Valley Song Cycle to a delighted audience in Dumfries with the Scottish Ensemble.
Classical music was particularly welcomed during this year’s festival. Absolute Classics brought a Blüthner Piano Weekend to Dumfries and Thornhill; the USSO gave an outstanding performance of Holst’s Planet Suites in Lockerbie town hall to an enraptured audience; Robyn Stapleton’s two appearances with the Daleian Singers were very well received; and the Tinderbox Orchestra demonstrated the dazzling amount of young musical talent in the region.
The Scottish Ensemble’s four-day residency of concerts and workshops for young people ended in a stunning performance of Eastern Europe Express at the Theatre Royal on Sunday and played out the festival for this year.
Festival director Peter Renwick said: “This year’s festival has been amazing with some truly great performing artists taking to the stages right across the region. There was, overall, a happy festival atmosphere over the 10 days of events and we are really grateful to our audiences for turning up and supporting us so well. Audience feedback so far has been very positive with the majority of people having enjoyed the shows and the whole experience.
“The Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival is becoming increasingly artist-driven and benefits from the strength of our artistic scene in this region mixed with relevance to the national stage. A huge thank you to our funders, supporters, venue managers and promoters, artists and, of course, the communities of Dumfries & Galloway. We hope to see you all next year.”