Monday, February 16, 2009

Robert Burns Anniversary Birthday Weekend

As Scotland celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of their bard, Robert Burns, not a sign of the occasion was evident in Princes Street, Edinburgh, heart of the capital.

The 250th anniversary was meant to be the start of a year-long spectacular entitled 'Homecoming Scotland 2009', a celebration of Scotland's contributions to the world designed to attract people, especially those with Scottish ancestry, to visit the country, trace their roots and embrace their ancestral culture.

But for visitors who were there, Princes Street was bare with no indication of the festival. There were no pennants on lampposts, banners across the street, posters. Even the Harvey Nicks Robert Burns Lunch was birthday bare...see previous blog.

How did I find out about it? I happened to google Burns Night. So the following day, I went back to Princes Street to find out what was happening...or not...

The first people I met were Lynda and Steve, a middle-aged couple from Leeds who were spending a few hours shopping in Princes Street and who were staying in Glasgow.

They were here because they had spotted a bargain weekend and jumped at it.

'It wasn't Burns night, it was the trip and the package that appealed to us,' said Steve. 'But the package was for Burns Night.'

What about the bard's 250th birthday? 'We didn't know it was a special anniversary,' he said, saying there had been no publicity about it when he booked.

I told them there was a programme of events that will run until 30 November, St Andrew's Day.

'You don't get the impression there's a rolling programme,' said Lynda.

'I didn't know there was a rolling programme,' said Steve.

But their Burns Supper had been a success. The haggis had been piped in - 'We like haggis!' said Lynda - and they had the traditional 'tatties and neeps.'

Next, I spoke to Nicky. Just tipping thirty-years-old, she was on her way back to work after a lunchbreak.

Did she celebrate Burns Night?

'I did Saturday night. I went to a friend's home for a Burns Supper,' she said.

And what was on the menu?

'Haggis, neeps and tatties, and shortbread!'

What did she think of Homecoming Scotland, I asked, telling her that a newspaper article I'd read online had said there were hopes that the programme might not only attract people to visit Scotland but encourage some of the diaspora to return permanently.

'I'd be surprised if it encouraged them to come back to live. They may come for a holiday,' she replied.

And the publicity. Did she know there was a rolling programme of events?

'I know there is, but I couldn't tell you what things there are, to be honest.'

Skye and Sarah were two Australian girls in their twenties working in Edinburgh as part of a work-travel round-the-world trip.

They had been in the city for a few months, but Burns?

'Never heard of him apart from yesterday on the telly,' said Skye.

'Even though they say "Burns Night", I had no idea what it involved,' said Sarah. 'I asked someone at work last week and he told me he (Burns) was a poet. That was it!'

But she was optimistic about the Scots.

'I think Scottish people do know who Burns is. One boy at work had a haggis party...whatever haggis is to do with Burns!'

Cameron and Robbie were two young professionals.

Cameron celebrated Burns Night 'with family in the home,' with haggis, neeps and tatties.

'I had a drink of whisky but no shortbread!'

About the Homecoming Scotland, he was positive. 'That's a good thing,' he said, although adding, 'I don't know how effective it will be. It's hard to gauge.'

He thought that the widespread TV coverage through sponsorship of the Scottish FA Cup, named for this season the 'Homecoming Scottish Cup,' would have an impact.

Robbie, however, didn't participate in Burns Night.

'To be honest, I didn't notice when it was. My family don't really celebrate anything traditional. I only know about Homecoming Scotland. I worked on one of the councils and did a bit of work on Homecoming Scotland.

'I think it's a great idea for people to trace their families and things,' he said.

In my next blog, I meet some people who work in shops and the tourist industry in Princes Street, and find one literary chink of light...

pics show: a piper on Princes Street in front of the Scott Monument, by Julie; Edinburgh Castle; Princes Street taken from the Scott Monument

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to see a Scotsman play the pipe! Great photos!