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  1. Festival Report

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    Last Saturday (10th June) saw the final event of the 2017 Lapraik Poetry Festival. The Young People’s Speaking Competition saw the culmination of an extended range of events in recognition of the celebration of a decade of Festivals since its inception in 2008. The Young People of Muirkirk Primary School showed a great deal of talent in their delivery of a variety of poems learned ‘off by heart’ and presented with confidence and the right level of dramatic interpretation. As has become tradition, the Muirkirk readers were joined by representatives from other local schools who competed in an ‘open’ section. This year the schools represented were Mauchline, Catrine, Greenmill and Barshare. Earlier in the week the primary school students had enjoyed Scots Language workshops organised by ‘Ayrshire’s Bard’, Rab Wilson. The workshops covered many topics from Scots words and phrases to story-telling in Scots. At the other end of the Festival period, a full-house enjoyed international-standard entertainment at Crambo-Jingle and Sang in the Coach House Inn. A special surprise for the audience was the presence of the historic ’Gregg Violin’ (owned by Robert Burns’ teacher) which was played by local musician Alistair McCulloch ably supported by Sean Gray from Coylton. In addition to these talented musicians, Clair Hastings (former Young Traditional Musician of the Year) from Dumfries enthralled the audience with her beautiful voice and ukulele playing. Scots Language poetry added to the wide repertoire enjoyed by all who attended and this was provided by Andrew McNeil, Chris Rollie and Rab Wilson. The World John Lapraik Speaking Competition on the first Saturday of the Festival, hosted by angus Middleton, was also very-well attended and saw George Park of New Cumnock gain the 2017 title after strong competition from runners-up John Hutcheson and Willie Dick and the other competitors, Eric Dempster and Hugh McHarg. Andy Brown entertained the audience with an excellent rendition of Tam o’Shanter while the judges deliberated their decision. While George Park went forward to the Lapraik Masters competition in the afternoon, John Hutcheson very ably delivered the John Lapraik Memorial Reading at the Parish Kirkyard while Gordon Wilson played an appropriate lament on the pipes. The Lapraik Master’s competition in the afternoon was a new event to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Lapraik festival. After stiff competition from all the previous winners from 10 years of the John Lapraik Speaking Competition, Susan Chown of Alloa was victorious and was presented with the Ayrshire Association of Burns Clubs Trophy by Burns Federation World President, Bobby Kane. Runners-up were Wull Horne from Girvan (and Cockenzie) and Neil Macgillivray of Glasgow. Entertainment during the judges’ deliberations was provided by Hugh McHarg with his own unique delivery of Robert Burns’ ‘Death And Dying Words Of Poor Mailie’ and Jimmy Law’s excellent rendition of Robin Cairns’ ‘Lochgelly’! The final event of the first weekend was a partner event, (with the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway) ‘Brither Bards’, where Rab Wilson and Professor Alan Riach described the relationship between Robert Burns and John Lapraik, and their contemporaries, to a very appreciative audience.



  2. Performer Bios: Chris Rollie

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    It is difficult to find a label that describes a man with such an abundance of talents as Chris Rollie. We have chosen ‘author’ as it is in that role that you will find most on-line material written about Chris (and in these Bios we like to give you links to material to allow you to do your own research!).


    Chris is the writer of ‘Robert Burns in New Cumnock’ and ‘Robert Burns in England’ about which was said ‘Of the many books written to commemorate the 250th birthday of Robert Burns, a handful stand out and can be judged to be exceptional. In this case, Chris Rollie’s Robert Burns in England is in that top tier of books on Burns.’ As you can see from his subject matter we could also have described Chris as ‘expert’ or ‘story-teller’ but it is in his role as ‘researcher’ that Chris is recognised in the academic world as his research unearthed seven long lost manuscripts, including correspondence between Robert Burns and his close friends, which throw significant new light on the life and work of the poet.


    However, it is in his role as ‘poetry-reader’ that you are likely to see and hear Chris at this year’s Crambo-Jingle as Chris’s rendition of Burns’ ‘Holy Fair’ is probably one of the best in the world!


    As if Chris’s expertise in the world of Robert Burns is not enough, he also performs the roles of ‘expert’,’writer’,’teacher’, story-teller and researcher in the world of Birds and Nature!



  3. Performer Bios: Claire Hastings

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    Claire Hastings is a folksinger/songwriter originally from Dumfries. A graduate of the Scottish Music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Claire is currently living and working in Glasgow.


    In 2015 Claire won the prestigious BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year award. Since winning the title she has performed at many high-profile events including BBC Proms in the Park with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra and at BBC Music Day, where she sang alongside Lulu, Jamie Cullum and Deacon Blue. Other performance highlights include singing for the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in London’s National Theatre, at Orkney Folk Festival supporting Seth Lakeman, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and playing Nancy (Clarinda) McLehose in ‘A Man’s a Man’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.


  4. Performer Bios: Andrew McNeil

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    Author and Poet, Andrew McNeil, was born in Toledo, Ohio, USA in 1963. He was educated at West Anstruther Primary School and Edinburgh University followed by Jordanhill College in Glasgow. He now teaches primary school in Burntisland, Fife and lives in Dunfermline with his family in a house overlooking the Forth. He is currently working toward an educational placement in Africa and a Masters degree.


    His work has been widely published in literary magazines in Scotland, England and on sites in the USA, and he has twice been runner-up for the McCash Scots Poetry Competition, University of Glasgow. Temples Fae Creels (Kettillonia, 1999) reflected his childhood and Scots language influences.





  5. Performer Bios: Sean Gray

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    Sean is talented guitarist, flautist and singer who has played the Lapraik Festival before. He was one of the young musicians who performed John Morran’s interpretation of Muirkirk’s local poets ….Garan sang……..a great night!.



    Sean hails from Coylton and is a member of the Paul McKenna Band who are currently touring in the Netherlands and Germany

  6. Performer Bios: Alistair McCulloch

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    Alistair McCulloch is one of the most sought after fiddlers in Scotland today, both as performer and teacher. His versatility and breadth of repertoire have kept him at the forefront of the tradition for almost twenty years.



    Alistair McCulloch hails from Ayr in Scotland and is one of the country’s best known fiddle performers, teachers and composers with many appearances on radio and television. Past winner of many fiddle championships, Alistair is fiddle instructor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has tutored many of the new generation of rising stars.



    To date Alistair has performed in over 20 countries, also including China, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Nigeria, Venezuela, Canada and throughout Europe. To date, he has released three solo albums, most recently ‘Four Seasons in One Day’ – says the Scotsman “As the mountain of fiddle CDs rises even higher, this one can climb straight to the summit ridge”.




  7. Day2 – Brither Bards – Sunday 4th May – Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

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    Lapraik’s personal and poetic relationship with Robert Burns reminds us that Burns was always a poet of company, with friends, lovers, sometimes enemies, and of variety, writing in English as well as Scots, of Edinburgh as well as rural Ayrshire, of politics as well as love. Join two contemporary poets who follow this tradition, Rab Wilson and Alan Riach, as they discuss the role of ‘Brother Bards’, the value of poetry in the modern world, and read from their new books.
    Alan Riach’s The Winter Book begins on an icy Christmas night and ends at the well at the world’s end, bringing in family, friends, Scotland, independence, Europe and what’s worth celebrating even in dark times.


    ‘The Winter Book’ by Alan Riach (Luath Press)


    Alan Riach’s first book of poems since 2009’s Homecoming has been called ‘a vision of our times’ and addresses some of the most difficult issues, 2009-2017, but it’s also a celebration of friends, landscapes, domestic and public actions that are shared strengths and virtues. As William Carlos Williams put it, ‘If it ain’t a pleasure, it ain’t a poem!’


    The Winter Book is full of big poems that encompass a range of experience, engaging with ideas, situations, places, and the why of it. Political anger is poured into strong, argumentative, emotionally engaging poems: no easy task.


    The poems in The Winter Book connect people, places and culture across geographies, nationally in Scotland and internationally in global, political contexts of loss and affirmation, sorrow and anger, personal and public worlds, as memories flow into history.


    ‘Zero Hours: Poems chiefly in the Scots language’ by Rab Wilson (Luath Press)


    Some of Rab Wilson’s poems also celebrate paintings. ‘Salmon Nets and the Sea’ is a moving tribute to both painting and painter (Joan Eardley).


    ‘Hapt agin the cauld ye staund yer grund,
    tae win fir us the lethal achin beauty o the sea
    that gies sae much, an taks sae much awa.’


    He has the commendable ability to scratch away at our layers of protective skin and cut to the quick. ‘Zero Hours’ is a bleak indictment of our society and ‘In Memory of Tom Carrick’ he celebrates the power of landscape and the human spirit.


    Full of fire and insight, this collection crackles with life and passion. There is humour too as in ‘Fourteen Coos’ and I particularly liked ‘What the Alien speaks of When he Speaks of Love’ as it shows machines operated by human beings and their ‘motives’ interpreted by aliens.


    As well as social and political commentary Wilson has a fine sensibility for beauty and the transcendent. ‘A Spider’s Web Glazed with Frost’ is compared to ‘Charts depicting stellar endlessness, joining dots in God’s great puzzle book.’


    Social insight, wit and poignancy are the hallmarks of Rab Wilson’s poetry. He ranges from concerns with present-day injustices to humanity’s place in the greater scheme of things, ending with, appropriately, ‘The Greater Sea’:


    ‘Ayont the faur horizon Venus lowes,
    The Cosmos beckons tae us; pynt the prow!’


  8. Day 1 – ‘Masters’ comes to the Hills of Ayrshire

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    It’s hard to believe that the Lapraik Speaking Competition is now in its 10th year. To celebrate the Anniversary, the organisers of the Lapraik Festival have invited all previous winners of the World John Lapraik Speaking Competition to return this year to compete for the ‘Lapraik Masters’ trophy and title……….a once in a decade opportunity! The line-up for the competition reads like a ‘who’s who’ of Burns reading talent with Wull Horne, Alister Sim, Jimmy Law, Bobby Jess, Ian Buick, Neil Macgillivray, Graham Wight and Susan Chown all agreeing to compete. A judging panel of Professor Gerry Carruthers, Mrs Karen Kane and Mr Bill Dawson have agreed to take on the challenge of finding a winner among such a talented field and the exuberant Angus Middleton will be MC for the event. RBWFL President Bobby Kane will be there to support the event and present prizes. The competition starts at 2pm on Saturday 3rd June 2017 at Muirkirk Caravan Park… the Hills of Ayrshire!


    But that’s not all!………..our Annual John Lapraik World Speaking competition also takes place on the same day and at the same venue…but with a 10 am start. The line-up of competitors has not yet been finalised (at the time of publication) but well-known readers such as Willie Waugh, Hugh McHarg, Willie Dick and local favourite, Eric Dempster have already thrown their hats in the ring. The judging panel for this competition is Jim Thomson, Dr Rhona Brown, Susan Chown and James Waite with Angus Middleton, once again, leading the programme.


    The John Lapraik Memorial Reading will be given at Lapraik’s grave in the Muirkirk Parish Kirkyard at 1pm……..during the break between the 2 competitions. The competitions are all-ticket events and tickets, costing £5 for each competition, can be obtained by contacting Festival Co-ordinator, Douglas McKenzie at or via the contact page on this website.


    These competitions are part of the Lapraik Poetry Festival which also includes ‘Crambo-jingle and Sang’….an evening of Tradition Music and Poetry. Headlining the event this year is celebrated fiddler Alistair McCulloch. (watch out for news of the rest of the line-up).
    Other events include the Young People’s Speaking Competition, which encourages our World Speaking champions of the future.
    Another first for this anniversary year is our partnership with the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Rab Wilson, Scriever in Residence at the Museum, will be running Scots Language workshops for Muirkirk Primary School children during the Festival week (. ‘I think my ideas are more barren in English than in Scottish’ Robert Burns to George Thomson, April 1793)………and on Sunday 4th June, at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Rab Wilson joins Professor Alan Riach to discuss (and read from) their new works, set in the context of Robert Burns’ relationship with John Lapraik…………’Brither Bards’!


    To quote Rab… ‘In a speerit o comradeship in the Scots Leid, this year the Lapraik Festival is teamin up wi the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum an twae o Scotland’s leadin contemporary poets, Alan Riach an Rab Wilson, wi a ‘partner’ poetry event at the Burns Museum oan Sunday 4th June. The poets wull be readin frae their raicently published new collections……. sae come alang an hear twa o Scotland’s finest poets readin poetry that hus a rael Scots souch tae it an cairries the torch o Burns an MacDiarmid intil the 21st Century – an ayont!

    For more information please use the contact details above……..and the RBBM website
    In the next couple of days we will publish more details of the ‘Brither Bards’ event.