Burns suppers around the world showcased in Scottish artwork

Photos of Burns suppers sourced from around the world have been used by artist David Mach to create a collage celebrating the global reach of Scotland’s national bard.

The Flying Haggis artwork was commissioned by the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies to mark the end of a two-year project researching the history of Burns suppers and mapping these events in the 21st century.

It features between 30 and 40 of around 350 images sourced by the university from people who submitted photos of their own Burns Night events in 2021, many of which were held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The artwork will be officially launched during a virtual reality event on Burns Night on Tuesday, at which people will also be able to experience the story and legacy of the Burns supper “as never seen before”. This includes a virtual trip to Alloway Auld Kirk as Burns imagined it in Tam o’ Shanter.

The Flying Haggis by artist David Mach, celebrating the global reach of the Burns Supper and Scotland's national bard, which will be officially launched in virtual reality on Burns Night. Picture: Martin Shields/PA Wire

Mach, known for artworks including the Big Heids alongside the M8 motorway in North Lanarkshire, said: “You’ll see Flying Haggis is not a stiff affair. I wanted to make a Burns Night that Robert Burns himself would want to attend.

“It’s a collage, but acts more like a film on pause, press play and the action will carry on. Even the room joins in the extravagance of the night.

“There’s an almost orgiastic celebration, Scottish to kick off, but soon joining together all the liberal, free-thinking, independent, romantic spirits of the world.”

The Flying Haggis will be the centrepiece of a virtual reality exhibition created as part of the Burns Beyond Reality collaboration between the university and immersive learning platform Edify.

It will go on display in the university’s new Advanced Research Centre building in Glasgow in the coming months.

Dr Pauline Mackay, a lecturer in Robert Burns studies who has been leading with Edify on the creation of Burns Beyond Reality, said: “Immersive technology enables us to access and experience Burns and his legacy in exciting and innovative ways, no matter where we are in the world.

“It really is Burns for the 21st century.”

The Centre for Robert Burns Studies research has also mapped more than 2,500 contemporary Burns suppers, brought together on an interactive world map that was launched last year.

It features celebrations across 140 countries on five continents, from places including Hawaii and Argentina to Japan, and gives an inventory of their menus, settings, entertainments, and orders of ceremony.

Professor Gerard Carruthers, co-director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies and principal investigator on the Burns Supper In History And Today project, said: “Today, it is estimated that over nine-and-a-half million people around the world take part in a Burns supper every year.

“The Burns supper is a huge testimony to the bard’s enduring appeal, not only within Scotland but around the world.

“With the conclusion of our research, we believe we have now created a one-stop shop for everything you want to know about the Burns supper, past and present.”

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