The Rise of Duddingston Festival by Steve Harvey

Over the last five years I have been fortunate enough to spend much of my time, when not travelling, in Duddingston Village…

It is an ancient settlement within a green ring near the edge of Edinburgh: a place with special places – the Kirk, Dr Neil’s Garden, the Sheep Heid (reputedly the oldest pub in Scotland) – all bordered by Arthur’s Seat and Duddingston Loch…In October 2013 I went for a pint with poet John Hegley after a performance in Edinburgh. I asked him if he would come up for an event in Duddingston Village if one was organised and he said, “Yes.”

Duddingston Festival

Over the next couple of months I attended events looking for talent and contacted a number of local writers, historians and musicians I knew and asked them if they would perform at a village day on May 25th. All those available agreed, despite the fact that I could not guarantee them any fee as it would have to be financed by donations on the day.
I held an open meeting for all those interested upstairs in the Sheep Heid to inform the community of my idea and canvas opinions and seek suggestions for other possible activities for the day. It was attended by local residents, members of the Kirk and representatives of Dr Neil’s Garden. As a result of this, we came up with, among other things, our drumming and hula-hoop workshops. What was clear from the start that it would be a community event with things to offer for all ages and would only come about through a great deal of good will, voluntary effort and hard work.

Very soon, our ‘village day’ had grown into a weekend festival.

I asked local musician, Mike McGeary if he would organise an evening concert as part of the event. At a Christmas party in the village I mentioned John Hegley to a guest and he introduced me to his wife who was a big fan. She was a designer. By March, a small group of us had arranged a progamme of events and designed and had printed a leaflet (sponsored by two small businesses in the village).
Over 2,000 leaflets were then delivered to local homes with the Kirk’s Easter newsletter and distributed at literary and musical events, as well as bookshops, libraries and entertainment venues in Edinburgh. We created a webpage and joined Facebook. When it proved difficult and expensive to get accommodation for John Hegley due to it being the weekend of the Edinburgh Marathon, a neighbour kindly offered free use of their flat as they would be away then.
Whether our festival is a success or not depends on several things, not least the weather, but we have already achieved a great deal through tapping into local talent and energy and it has been a real learning experience for all those involved – an ever-widening circle…

Come along to enjoy some music, poetry & storytelling

in Duddingston Village’s gardens, tower, kirk, halls and pub

The weekend of 24th – 25th May 2014

Hope to see you there…

Steve Harvey


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