AS memories of Yuletide generosity and Hogmanay get-togethers fade, a Scottish festival aims to keep that spirit alive well into the first weeks of 2020 – and it hopes to be a “beacon” for other communities to do the same.

Running in over 30 venues across Dumfries, the Big Burns Supper was founded “as a coming together of people and culture” and a celebration of Robert Burns, who lived in the town until 1796.

Now in its ninth year, the volunteer-run festival presents a mix of music, dance, cabaret, comedy and family events over 11 days, including an exclusive live collaboration by members of Band Of Burns, Afro Celt Sound System, The Langan Band and The Breath to mark Burns Night on January 25.

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Folk-pop hit-maker Newton Faulkner will headline Burns Night Live, with further acts including four-time Grammy winner Keb Mo, indie band Turin Brakes, trip-hop survivors Morcheeba and The Kingdom Choir, performers at 2018’s royal wedding.

All artists are asked to reflect on the occasion, says Graham Main, the Big Burns Supper’s executive producer.

“We definitely ask them to think about the spirit of Burns,” he says. “We don’t ask people to focus on just him or his poetry, but any aspect they are drawn to.”

Main continues: “Artists are generally blown away by the warmth when they come here. For us as a town, that’s really great in terms of giving them an intimate performance setting.

“Newton Faulkner is an 800-capacity event in the Spiegeltent; it’s a nice experience for people. And hopefully they’ll leave having experienced another aspect of Scotland.”

Community is central to the event, which relies on the efforts of up to 150 volunteers to help transport artists, give out brochures, build the site – including a hub on the banks of the Nith offering free performances – and work with stars backstage.

“Backstage there’ll likely be an older lady who doesn’t care who you are or how many records you’ve sold,” laughs Main. “If you’ve left a cup, you’ve got to pick it up. That’s quite humbling I think, for big artists to come into that.”

A high-profile performer once told the producer the Big Burns Supper was “anarchic”.

“He said we were running the festival like punks; that it was a DIY model we were working to,” Main says. “Our vision for the festival was always to make it a really world-class event but to do it on our terms in a way that reflects Dumfries. And it’s a wee town full of character.”

Local acts not to miss include metal band Turbyne and singer-songwriter Kate Kyle, while the multiple new trad bands on the bill confirm the Big Burns Supper as a destination-festival for fans of contemporary Scottish music.

As well as Celtic rockers Skerryvore, appearing are Highlands folk-funk conquerors Elephant Sessions and Peat & Diesel, the madcap Stornoway trio who recently sold out the Glasgow Barrowland ahead of the release of their second album Light My Byre.

“I think we can all see a version of ourselves in Peat & Diesel; what ambassadors they are for Stornoway,” says Main. “We’ve been really lucky because the growth of contemporary Scottish trad has kind of grown hand-in-hand with what we’re doing here in Dumfries.”

Main continues: “I think we’re living through a renaissance in Scottish music that we’re maybe unaware of as everything else is so deafening out there. We’re seeing a growth in our own folk music, we’re learning to communicate what we think today through our song. Peat & Diesel are great as it’s not taking it too seriously, it’s quite comical.”

There’s humility in self-mockery, a quality Main is confident will prevail in Europa Picnic on January 31 when local people work with artists, poets and songwriters to write a community-wide farewell to Europe. Collaboration is a key theme of the first festival of the new decade, he says.

“Perhaps where politicians have failed, artists and communities might make more sense out of the last couple of years,” says Main. “Our idea was to have lots of people’s different spins on Brexit and Europe, but the great thing about it, and about Burns Night in general is that it doesn’t matter what your opinion is, because it about remembering it’s OK to disagree with other people and to listen to their views. At the end of the day, it’s about tolerance, and festivals are a great place to bring people together and air these differences.”

New for 2020 is Family Le Haggis, an all-ages version of the risque cabaret show which developed from the festival.

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Fusing Celtic rhythms with sizzling-hot circus performers, gravity-defying aerial specialists and other artist-provocateurs, Le Haggis is both sexy and satirical, says Main.

“Le Haggis is Scotland’s naughtiest, confident cabaret show that asserts a kind of satire on Scotland,” says Main. “We’ve never stayed away from the real world, from the political world. Instead we rip it apart and audiences love it.”

He continues: “Robert Burns is, of course, quite connected to Dumfries. We all grew up with this imaginary legacy he had. But the more you came into contact with him, the more you realised he had plenty of faults, that he’s just a human being. The power he has is he’s artist was that he engages people with a good story, a good song. Some of his songs evoke a cultural memory within us. And we’ve noticed that with Le Haggis, where people are coming to the festival, perhaps not having any connection to Burns, and because of the festival they’re leaving with that memory, which is really powerful.”

Also new is a popup strand where groups of 15 people can buy one hour’s entertainment, ranging from folk music to cabaret and karaoke.

“We’re offering people the chance to curate their own popup experience, which isn’t just on-trend: that’s us trying to build a legacy of Burns Night, of curating your own wee daft Burns Night in a booth in the festival or with your neighbour next door,” says Main.

The popup strand reminds Main of what got him going to Burns Suppers as a young man.

“What really struck me was when they paid tribute to the artists,” he says. “I’d never seen that before – of artists being toasted for enriching our lives. There is a real appreciation there and a space for us to think of artists in modern, contemporary Scotland.”

What’s key to the Big Burns Supper, says Main, isn’t learning poems by rote or idealising a man who was, like us all, a flawed, complex human being.

“It started with the simple idea of bringing people together,” he says. “Generally we thought people didn’t quite have the confidence to celebrate Burns night with any meaning, that we’d become a bit lost, with too many teachers drilling us to learn the words to poems rather than on the meaning of Burns and his work.

“I think especially for us in the west of Scotland, having a coming together with your mates, sharing drams, having dinner, is very important to do in winter.”

Main adds: “That’s the heart of the Big Burns Supper; bringing the community together. And that has happened over these past years. Our ambition is that it continues to grow, both as a beacon for our community and for other communities as well.”

January 23 to February 2, venues in Dumfries, various times and prices. Tel: 01381 271 820.