Celebration of ‘The Bard’ and his work at various venues

The Ulster-Scots Agency has launched Belfast Burns Week 2018 to celebrate the January 25 birthday'of Robert Burns - 'Scotland's favourite son.
The Ulster-Scots Agency has launched Belfast Burns Week 2018 to celebrate the January 25 birthday'of Robert Burns - 'Scotland's favourite son.

A programme of drama, music and lectures celebrating the life of poet Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns has been announced by the Ulster-Scots Agency.

Timed to coincide with ‘The Bard’s’ birthday, the various concerts and events are being held across the Belfast area between January 22 and 27.

Born born on January 25, 1759 in the Scottish village of Alloway, two miles south of Ayr, by the age of 27 Burns was well-known throughout Scotland such was the popularity of his work, including the poems To a Louse, To a Mouse and The Cotter’s Saturday Night.

Burns was immensely popular in Ireland throughout the 19th century, particularly in Belfast, and it is often said that the only books a poor Ulster family might own were the Bible and the works of Robert Burns.

His use of uniquely Scottish words and phrases ensured Burns’ work resonated strongly with the Ulster public, and the collection of more than 500 songs and poems continues to be revered around the world.

Belfast Burns week events include a free community Burns Night at the Spectrum Centre on Belfast’s Shankill Road on January 22 at 7pm.

Matthew Warwick, education officer for the Ulster-Scots Community Network, will act as compere for the evening of entertainment that includes a performance by the Risin’ Stour ceilidh band. Numbers are limited and booking is essential.

On January 24, blue badge tour guide and historian Laura Spence will deliver a talk on the Life, Loves and Legacy of the great poet beginning at 1pm.

The one hour lecture – at the Discover Ulster Scots Centre in Victoria Street, Belfast – will explore the loves and losses of Burns and how his experiences influenced his works and the perceptions of Burns to the present day.

The Ploughman Poet, as Burns is often called, was a colourful character who fathered at least 13 children with five different women.

His eventful life was cut short when he suffered a fatal bout of pneumonia following a tooth extraction.

Tours of the Linen Hall library’s Gibson collection – the largest collection of Burns material outside of Scotland – are taking place on Wednesday, January 24 and Friday, January 26 at 2pm.

Burns had many connections with Belfast and the tour will provide an insight into the early days of the city as well as unlocking the secrets of the library’s archives. The tours are free and can be booked through the website www.ticketsource.co.uk/ulster-scots-agency.

On Friday, January 26, Robert Burns Live performer Christopher Tait will be on stage at the Spectrum Centre in the guise of the Bard, reciting and performing Burns most famous works, including Holy Willie’s Prayer, Tam O’Shanter and A Red, Red Rose.

The festival of celebrations will conclude with the annual Burns Concert on January 27 at the Waterfront Hall.

Traditional musicians Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain will guide the audience through a rousing concert of music, story-telling, dancing and piping along with vocalist Robyn Stapleton, conductor John Logan, the Ulster-Scots Agency Juvenile Pipe band and the Markethill Ulster-Scots Dancers.

A full programme available at www.ticketsource.co.uk/ulster-scots-agency.

Tickets for the Burns Concert are available from the Waterfront Hall at www.waterfront.co.uk.