Monday, 12 January 2009

Burns anniversary celebrations

2009 sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns – Scotland’s national bard. To commemorate this cultural milestone, the Ulster-Scots Community Network (in partnership with Belfast City Council, the Arts Council for Northern Ireland and the Ulster-Scots Agency) will mark the anniversary with a series of events across Belfast to celebrate the life and legacy of Burns whilst highlighting the ever present links between Scotland and Ulster.

Writing in 1796 (the year of Burns’ death) the French Royalist émigré De Latocnaye writing about his travels through Ireland commented that –

“Belfast has almost entirely the look of a Scotch town, and the character of its inhabitants has considerable resemblance to that of the people of Glasgow. The way of speaking and even of dressing is much more Scotch than Irish.”

Robert Burns’ first volume of poems known as the Kilmarnock edition was published in July 1786 and extracts from it appeared in the Belfast Newsletter just three months later and his writings were a regular feature thereafter.

The first edition of Burns’s work published outside Scotland was produced in Belfast in 1787 and found its way into many Ulster homes. The language of Burns was the language of Ulster. Indeed, the writer and broadcaster Sam Hanna Bell reflected on the copy of Burns’s work found in the small farmhouse he occupied –

“….the only pages of the poet unthumbed were the glossary”

Andrew Gibson, a native of Ayrshire, Governor of the Linenhall Library and a President of the Belfast Scottish Association, assembled one of the world’s best collections of Burns literature. The Gibson collection, totalling over 2000 volumes, was purchased by public subscription in 1901 and placed in the Linenhall Library.

Burns’ granddaughter, Eliza Everitt, lived in Belfast and following her death her family further augmented the Linenhall collection by donating additional materials which had been in her possession.

The legacy of Burns and the cultural traditions associated with the Ulster-Scots people are an integral part of the cultural fabric of Northern Ireland and as such must be recognised and celebrated.

The “Belfast – Burns 250” programme will appeal to all sections of society and the wide range of events will have something to suit all tastes.

Poetry, Dance, Drama, Live Music, Cookery and Educational events at a variety of venues will combine to provide a unique opportunity for celebration throughout our capital city.

Some highlights include –

Thurs 24th Jan

7.00 -8.30pm Connswater Centre – Cookery Demonstration, Bright Lights Dancers & Gilnahirk Pipe Band

6.30 -8pm Burns Supper and Entertainment – Shankill Library

9.00 -11.30pm Live Ulster-Scots music featuring “Stonewall” – Bob Stewart’s Pub, Drumbeg

Friday 23rd Jan

11.00am – 12.30pm Schools Workshop Event with Ulster-Scots Folk Orchestra – Spectrum Centre

8.00pm -12.00am Live Music and Scottish Dancing– West Belfast Orange Hall

Saturday 24th Jan

10.30 -11.30am Ballycoan Pipe Band – Live performance at the Victoria Square Centre

11.00 -1.00pm Ulster-Scots cookery demonstration. St George’s Market.

Further details are available by contacting the Ulster-Scots Community Network on 028 90 436710.