40th Arts Festival attracts new audiences and reports increase in ticket sales

Billed as a great success, the 40th Anniversary of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, which took place for ten days over the end of May, has successfully attracted new and diverse audiences who enjoyed 50 events across 34 venues region-wide.

A full report will become available over the next few weeks but early evidence suggests an approximate 9% increase in ticket sales on last year, with audiences deeming the events to be of a high quality and many stating it was their first time attending the region’s arts festival.

Pic caption: Dani Rae (middle) Director of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival with professional acrobats hired for The High Street Takeover on Opening Weekend of 40th Anniversary programme. Pic by Colin Hattersley at Easterbrook Hall which hosted the Opening Night event, Lost at Sea by Morna Young.

The 40th Anniversary Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival was launched by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs who attended the Opening Night Civic Reception and public performance of Morna Young’s Lost at Sea at Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries on Friday 24th May.

Scotland’s third largest region was in full festival force as village and town halls, theatres, arts centres pubs and other community spaces were buzzing with great audiences and  several sell-out shows, including folk legends Martin & Eliza Carthy at Moffat Town Hall, short family performances from Scottish Opera in their pop-up truck parked up at Logan Botanic Gardens and Crawick Multiverse and comedy theatre Team Viking at Gatehouse of Fleet and Lochans Community Hall – productions all personally selected by new Festival Director Dani Rae.

New venues, Moat Brae; The Birthplace of Peter Pan, The Bridge in Dumfries and Lochans Community Hall in the Rhins of Galloway joined the programme this year. Moat Brae hosted comedy from rising star seen recently on Channel 4’s ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ Catherine Bohart which sold out weeks before the festival began. Part of the rural touring dance initiative The North by Joan Cleville Dance delighted the audience at The Bridge in Dumfries whilst Team Viking brought an audience of over sixty people to one of the most rural venues – Lochans Community Hall – also working with the festival for the first time this year.

Annan hosted a thrilling electric performance from Wildcard’s Electrolyte which had the Corner House Hotel’s walls shaking and there were favourable turn-outs for footie show, The Red Lion staged in Stranraer and Theatre Royal Dumfries.

The arts festival opened at Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries on Friday 24th May, with a big-stage production performed to an audience of 200 who watched an evocative, acclaimed new piece of theatre Lost at Sea, by Morna Young, which has received phenomenal reviews and four award nominations during its world premiere tour which began in Scotland in April.

The region’s young people, hailing from Stranraer to Gretna, played an important role once again this year in The High Street Take Over – Picnic at the Plainstanes (Saturday 25 May) in Dumfries which was entirely programmed by the festival’s Young Promoters Group and offered free live performances all afternoon, including professional acrobats and a spotlight on local, talented musicians.

The 40th Anniversary programme of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival centred on everyday challenges and triumphs with the themes of love, loss and a sense of place woven throughout it and many audiences found themselves on emotional highs and lows, altering states of grief to hilarious laughter within a split second. This year’s programme was curated by new Director, Dani Rae, who joined the team in October and who is looking to increase regional audiences and appeal to visitors coming from further afield, developing the well-respected charity whose aim is to encourage accessibility to high quality performing arts events in a rural economy.

Dani Rae, Director of D&G Arts Festival and Arts Live said;

“I’m delighted at the response we’ve had and it’s fantastic to have had so much support for our 40th Anniversary programme. I hope people will join us for our year-round programme of events, Arts Live, and for the festival next year of course which will take place between 22nd and 31st May”.

Ken Gouge, Chair of D&G Arts Festival, said;

“This was an absolutely fantastic 40th Anniversary programme which attracted local communities and visitors alike to go and see a show. This year we saw many new faces from our local communities and a diverse audience enjoying the events which were region-wide. We’re proud to be Scotland’s largest rural performing arts festival and look forward to continuing to work closely with local venues and promoters to ensure the best quality events can be accessed across the region’s towns and villages”.

A superb closing event for this year’s festival brought its audience to their feet inspiring them to join in and sing. The Closing Collaboration; Home & Horizon was held at Lockerbie Town Hall on Sunday 2 June in a unique collaboration between Scottish Ensemble and the region’s home-grown talent and Scotland’s top musicians including Claire Mann, Robyn Stapleton, Jamie McLennan, Aaron Jones, Emily Smith, Wendy Stewart and Tom Pow, who performed a beautiful suite of music, song and spoken word inspired by Dumfries & Galloway and curated by Alison Burns. 

D&G Arts Festival will return to stages across the region next 22nd–31st May. The year-round programme of events, Arts Live, powered by Dumfries & Galloway is available to see on www.dgartslive.org.uk