Edinburgh set to host huge cultural celebration in 2020 as Burns Night starts Chinese Year of the Rat

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New Edinburgh festivals inspired by Robert Burns and Chinese New Year are to join forces to create a huge cultural celebration which will run for nearly three weeks across the city in January and February.

The joint venture, which is aimed at boosting one of the quietest periods in Edinburgh’s events calendar, will be rolled out to mark the first time Burns Night, on 25 January, has coincided with Chinese New Year in 76 years.

Edinburgh will be hosting bilingual ceilidhs among events aimed at an influx of Chinese visitors. Picture: Contributed

Edinburgh will be hosting bilingual ceilidhs among events aimed at an influx of Chinese visitors. Picture: Contributed

Highlights are expected to include a vast installation of more than 400 Chinese lanterns in St Giles’ Cathedral, a “not-so-traditional” Burns Supper, themed whisky, beer and food tastings, an exhibition of Burns’ poetry and Chinese calligraphy, “bilingual ceilidhs”, and parties and concerts celebrating the arrival of China’s Year of the Rat.

The line-up includes a benefit at the Usher Hall for the charity set up in memory of the Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison after he took his own life in 2018.

The Assembly Rooms, on George Street in the New Town, will be turned into a Burns-themed “Festival Club”, at which Orange Juice founder Edwyn Collins, singer-songwriter Rachel

Sermanni and island festival favourites Tide Lines will be appearing.

Other events in the programme, which will run from 20 January to 6 February, include a tea-time dance hosted by West Highland “Ceilidh King” Fergie McDonald, a Bairns’ Burns Supper, and a stage play about Burns’ wife and mistress, Jean Armour and Agnes Maclehose.

The joint programme has been unveiled by Unique Events, organisers of Burns & Beyond, which was instigated earlier this year to coincide with the birthday of the Ayrshire poet, and the

Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG), which has led efforts to attract more Chinese visitors to the city. More than 200,000 are said to be flocking in each year – around double the figure in 2014.

The move to combine the two events in 2020 will ensure Edinburgh has its longest ever season of events over the winter after the opening of its Christmas festival in mid-November and

Message from the Skies, a project which will see the words of five leading writers projected on to sites around the city from New Year’s Day until Burns Night.

Unique Events director Al Thomson said: “We’re 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 and we look forward welcoming even more in the Year of the Rat.”

Rob Lang, chair of ETAG’s China Ready initiative, said: “The combined celebrations create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to position Scotland’s capital as an inspiring and welcoming destination for international visitors.”