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Burns&Beyond Announces Festival Programme


Unique Events and the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) today announced that they are joining forces in January 2020 to celebrate Edinburgh’s Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker and Chinese New Year Festivals.  A very special programme of events will celebrate the alignment of Burns Night and Chinese New Year, which will both fall on 25 January 2020 – a coincidence of timing that only occurs every 76 years.


Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker returns for 2020, celebrating the legacy of Robert Burns through a programme of traditional and contemporary arts and culture from across Scotland and beyond from Tuesday 21 to Saturday 1 February.  The inaugural festival in 2019 welcomed over 30,000 visitors, with audiences of all ages discovering the best in live music, art, comedy and more in some of the capital’s best-known buildings and more secretive spaces. 

Alan Thomson, Director of Unique Events said: ‘We are thrilled to announce the return of Burns&Beyond in January and to have the opportunity to expand and enhance the programme in partnership with Edinburgh’s Chinese New Year Festival. The alignment of these culturally significant celebrations promises spectacular experiences for both the audience and the artists who have helped create a wonderful programme of events. The inaugural festival attracted over 30,000 locals and visitors to events throughout the city centre and we look forward welcoming even more in 2020, the Year of the Rat’.

Chinese New Year in Edinburgh is the largest celebration of its kind in Scotland where from Tuesday 21 January to Thursday 6 February residents and visitors to the city have a chance to explore the ever-growing links between Scotland and China.  China celebrates the New Year according to the lunar calendar, sharing many similarities with Scotland’s own Christmas and Hogmanay traditions. Each year is attributed to an animal from a 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac and 2020 is the Year of the Rat.

Rob Lang, Chair of ETAG’s China Ready Initiative said; “We’re delighted to be working with businesses across the city - and the Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker organisers - to create a unique and inspiring celebration of Scottish and Chinese culture, and the ever-growing links between them. In our largest ever programme, Edinburgh’s residents get the chance to enjoy and explore Chinese culture whilst local tourism businesses benefit at a traditionally quiet time of year. In China, the combined celebrations of New Year and Burns create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to position Scotland’s capital as an inspiring and welcoming destination for international visitors.”

Audiences can enjoy a feast of Scottish culture and traditions and explore China’s celebratory phenomenon as, for the first time, a combined programme of special events and initiatives will take place throughout the city. Highlights include a spectacular Chinese Lantern installation at St Giles’ Cathedral, Burns&Beyond Culture Crawl, Edinburgh’s Official Chinese New Year Concert at the Usher Hall, the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo and the new Burns&Beyond Festival Club in the famous Assembly Rooms on George Street. Local businesses in the city will also welcome visitors with everything from traditional red envelopes and bilingual ceilidhs to bespoke cocktails and whisky tastings.

Following last year’s spectacular success of Luke Jerram’s ‘Museum of the Moon’, Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker presents the stunning Chinese Lanterns at St Giles’ Cathedral.    A canopy of over 400 Chinese Lanterns transform Edinburgh’s famous St Giles’ Cathedral from Wednesday 22 January to Saturday 1 February 2020.  An evening illumination and soundtrack will create a sensory experience along with a programme of daytime and evening performance and events.

The Official Chinese New Year Concert featuring the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra, The Edinburgh Singers and many outstanding artists and soloists from both China and Scotland will take place at the Usher Hall on Tuesday 21 January.  The concert will also feature the Guizhou Song and Dance Ensemble, a performing arts troupe established in 1956.  Working in genres ranging from dance drama to opera, the troupe specialises in artistic creation that features key characteristics of Guizhou culture and will be bringing a variety of dances and songs that portray their unique folk customs.

With music at the heart of Robert Burns’ rich poetic legacy the Burns&Beyond Festival Club at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms plays host to an array of concerts and events with folk, rock, whisky and a ceilidh all added to the mix.  Highlights include special performances by Edwyn Collins, Tide Lines and Rachel Sermanni, Chris Stout & Catriona McKay.  ‘Ceilidh King’ Fergie MacDonald will give an accordion masterclass at the Teatime Ceilidh, there’s a Whisky Tasting with Johnnie Walker and the Festival Club programme closes each night with an Aftershow featuring DJ Davie Miller; founding member of Scottish electronic pioneers FiniTribe and Paradise Palms Records.

For families and younger Burns fans a new free event, The Bairn’s Burns Supper on Saturday 25 January, is a fun-packed lunchtime party with poetry, music and ceilidh dancing.  Major Minor Music Club returns on Sunday 26 January featuring Martha Ffion and Band welcoming the next generation to their first live gig.  Both events are at Freemason’s Hall in George Street.

A very special Burns&Beyond Charity Concert, A Waltz Across the Carpet, celebrates the life and music of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison.   The night of live music and entertainment at the Usher Hall on Sunday 26 January is curated by Scott’s brother and bandmate, Grant Hutchison and family, and is set to feature many artists and performers whose lives were touched by both Scott’s music and friendship. All proceeds raised from the event’s ticket sales, as well as other fundraising throughout the festival, will be donated to Tiny Changes, a charity founded by Hutchison’s family following Scott’s death in 2018 to raise awareness about mental health issues affecting children and young people.

Following last year’s sell-out event, the Not-So-Traditional Burns Supper is back for another raucous night of comedy, live music and delicious food and drink on Friday 24 January in Freemasons’ Hall.   Comedian Scott Gibson returns to host the event with special guests, a few surprises and a ceilidh finale with the Kilter Ceilidh Band. 

The Burns&Beyond Culture Crawl returns on Saturday 25 January featuring the very best in live performance from artists and musicians from across Scotland and beyond performing in eight venues across the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.   Audiences will explore the city centre, enjoying  performances ranging from Aidan O’Rourke’s Lucky Middlemass’s Tavern at The Assembly Rooms with live music from SAY Award Nominees Kinnaris Quintet, Six Music favourite Rozi Plain and poet Nadine Aisha Jarrat to The Leith Collective in The Liquid Rooms featuring Out of the Ordinary, fronted by Joseph Malik and Band, Tam Dean Burn, The Easter Road Northern Soul Band and legendary house DJ Ashley Beedle.  

There’s an evening of explosive performance as Neu! Reekie! Presents Edinburgh Hip Hop group Stanley Odd, singer songwriter Carla J Easton, spoken word artist Michael Pederson and an unforgettable version of Tam O’Shanter by Kevin Williamson and the Kixx Collective at Freemason’s Hall.   Hidden in two secret venues are a Johnny Walker Whisky Tasting and Scotland vs The World Silent Disco plus an evening of Comedy as Gilded Balloon Presents Susan Riddell, Jamie Dalgleish and Scott Capurro at the Gilded Balloon Basement in the Rose Theatre.    Further artists to be announced in late November.  Culture Crawl tickets are priced at £25 and allow participants to explore performances in all eight venues throughout the night.

Red, Red Rose Street returns as part of Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker, with the Capital’s famous city centre street hosting a series of free and ticketed events for audiences of all ages including The Rabbie Ramble with hidden clues and puzzles throughout the area, The Big Burns Quiz and Chinese New Year Lucky Red Envelopes hiding prizes, business offers and Burns&Beyond tickets.  There is also a full programme of comedy events at the Gilded Balloon Basement at the Rose Theatre.   The Scottish Storytelling Centre pays homage to Burns’ life and legacy with a feast of storytelling, music, workshops and children’s events in the heart of the city’s Old Town.

The award-winning Giant Lanterns event returns to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo, but with a whole new theme for 2019. Running across 47-nights, this extravaganza is based around a Lost Worlds theme, where hundreds of prehistoric creatures are brought to life to present a visually stunning display of the history of wildlife.    Events to celebrate Chinese New Year are taking place across the city, from the Confucius Institute for Scotland to the Holyrood Distillery, Hotel Chocolat and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.  Full listings of all events can be found at www.chinesenewyear.scot.

Professor Ian Baxter, Director of the Scottish Confucius Institute for Business & Communication at Heriot-Watt University commented; "We are really excited to be working with ETAG again to support the second city-wide Chinese New Year Festival, particularly this year with the added blend of Burns and Beyond. This partnership creatively celebrates China and Scotland to build cultural understanding and a diverse mix of entertainment and education, as well as business opportunities to build the China-ready welcome for visitors to the city and residents.”

Tickets to all Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker events are on sale from Friday 1 November through www.burnsandbeyond.com.  Tickets for the Official Chinese New Year Concert are available from www.usherhall.co.uk.  Full details of all events for Chinese New Year in Edinburgh can be found at www.chinesenewyear.scot.

Burns&Beyond with Johnnie Walker is produced by Unique Events and supported by City of Edinburgh Council, Johnnie Walker, Scotland’s Winter Festivals and Essential Edinburgh.    Edinburgh Chinese New Year Festival 2020 is co-ordinated by Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) and supported by The Scottish Confucius Institute for Business & Communication at Heriot-Watt University.

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Frank Ross, said: "This really is a once in a lifetime chance to celebrate the alignment of Chinese New Year and Scottish Burns Night, something which only happens every 76 years! To mark it, our annual Festival of the Chinese New Year will join forces with Burns&Beyond to create a special programme for 2020. This January, join us as we showcase Scots-Chinese culture like never before and celebrate our traditions with a contemporary twist."