The Speigal Tent, Dumfries
January in Scotland can be a dreich affair with many of us feeling the bite of fuel poverty and counting the cost of the Christmas glutfest. Summer and those halcyon festival days can seem so very far away. However if you happen to live in South West Scotland, a rather special seasonal celebration has been giving the streets of Dumfries a cinematic dash of colour and a reason for people to dress up like outlandish fops. We are of course taking about Big Burns Supper, arguably the biggest Burns festival on the planet. Dumfries plays host to much wackiness and boundary nudging interpretations of the world’s most famous poet and songwriter Robert Burns. So far so groovy, but when you combine this winter warmer with an opening night curated by Eden festival then you know that the ingredients are shaping up for a soufflé of frolicking and cavortment.
Setting off to the show, l quickly rounded up my posse of justified and ancient droothy neighbours, scraped my hair in some kind of order and headed out into the ancient burgh of Dumfries. First stop was the Coach and Horses for a catch up with some friends and to pay tribute to a recently deceased biker friend. Live rock music was pounding out via the sensational Mary Barclay band as we left and began winding our way to our ultimate destination of the amazing Spiegeltent.
An extra few pints were lashed down in the world famous Globe inn, to the accompaniment of a live Irish folk band. To be honest either of these venues would have provided a great night but we knew that the “A Taste of Eden Opening Night Party” was going to be a little bit special and sparkly. Our anticipation grew as the heady brew of rapidly consumed beer mixed with the cold drizzle which seemed to lurk in between the pubs. In short order the Spiegeltent materialised much like a brightly lit canvas spaceship. A quiver of excitement reverberated through the crowd and then just seemed to spiral round and round the circular venue never quite finding a way out the whole night. I was almost tempted to shout to the steward “quick secure those doors man or the excitement will escape” but managed to restrain myself.
Tantz were first on the bill and from what l can gather these guys were developed in a secret laboratory in Leeds, Balkanesque dub and hip hop were just some of the influences which registered with me as I grinned at the gloriousness of it all, cocooned in a bubble of creativity as the January weather skulked outside. Next up Gypsy disco were the sometimes naked meat filling on this triple sandwich of entertainment and as they themselves say they attract the freaks, dreamers painted and obscure people who prefer marginalia to the main text of society.
Come the end of the Gypsy Disco, it was like saying goodbye to an eccentric transvestite uncle when they exited stage left and cleared the decks for the Electric Swing Circus. a fusion of swing and electro music cleverly blended with a saucy bawdy vaudeville type performance that seemed to inhale time as effortlessly as an onion Johnny donning a striped shirt. All too soon my pumpkin arrived to whisk me 50 miles north to my home town of Newton Stewart, meanwhile the party moved from the speigletent to the Venue to give 500 adventurous souls a night that many of them can’t remember.
Reviewer : Sid Ambrose
Photography : Peter Robinson