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Days Out: Scotland’s most interesting 12 festivals for 2020



Brace yourselves, folks. The rest of the year is going to be a toughie. You probably assumed you would be able to enjoy some time at home in 2020. Evenings set aside for sofa slouching and Google browsing, with the TV burbling to itself in the background, like a poorly-paid extra in the movie of your life.

But that’s not going to happen. Because (curses!) there’s stuff to be done out there in Scotland. Thrilling stuff. Edge of your seat stuff. Wow, that’s totally crazy, I can’t believe it’s happening to me stuff.

Oh sure, you could give it all a miss. Baton down the hatches and evade the clamour of culture. But deep down you’d always have that lurking suspicion that there were some dastardly folk out there having way more fun than you. In the end you’d be like a lemon trapped in a revolving door – bitter and twisted.

So get ready for a feast of feisty festivals frolicking your way. Each event is guaranteed to sever you from your sofa. (Though if you really can’t bear to be away from your cosy chair, take it with you. Even furniture deserves a break.) By Lorne Jackson

Glasgow Film Festival

The Oscars are over for another year, meaning a bunch of mediocrities have deposited their little gold statues in a bank vault and returned to their Hollywood swimming pools and Hollywood drug habits. (Not all award-winning movie stars have drug habits, we should add. Though they do all have an addiction to swimming pools.) The Academy Awards has always been about the survival of the blandest. But if you want genuine quality and quirkiness, the Glasgow Film Festival is the place to be. There are cult flicks, sci fi flicks, scary flicks, feminist flicks and even locally made flicks. The festival isn’t just a movie screening bonanza. Watch out for quizzes, club nights, workshops and jazz sessions. (Jazz sessions? Yup, Jazz sessions…). Guests include Saudi Arabia’s first female feature film director Haifaa al-Mansour and leading documentary maker Jeanie Finlay.

26 Feb-8 March

Edinburgh International Improv Festival

GET ready for awkward silences galore as comedians struggle, strive and strain to come up with witticisms and one liners, then fall painfully short. Only joking. (Like comedians, we can kid around, too.) There’s bound to be loads of laugh aloud moments and bril’ bon mots as a jamboree of japesters take to the stage and attempt to find inspiration on the spot, and in the spot light. And if they don’t? Just boo those bums off the stage and back into obscurity.

27 Feb-1 March.

Edinburgh’s Festival of Ireland

MANY would argue that the best way to celebrate Ireland is by visiting Ireland. But isn’t that a little obvious? Much better to head over to the city of Edinburgh (which is in Scotland, for those not geographically inclined) where the rich culture of the Emerald Isle will descend on the city in all its raucous glory. This is a multi-arts, family friendly event involving storytelling, music, comedy and plenty of dancing. And will the whisk(e)y be served with that extra e in the name… or not? On this point alone there may be a clash of the Celtic nations.

13-21 March

Puppet Animation Festival

This is an opportunity to have loads of fun, with no strings attached. Actually that’s not true. There will be plenty of strings attached, along with arms plunged into lifelike dolls with googly eyes. This is one of the largest and longest running annual performing arts events for children, with events running in various venues throughout Scotland. And will that block of finest mahogany, Pinocchio, turn up? Unlikely, as it seems all that Disney success has changed him. Rumour has it he won’t get out of bed these days for under a million in spondoolicks…

28 March – 18 April


No, this isn’t a festival that only dolphins can attend. Humans are urged to get involved as well. The aim of DolphinFest is to encourage dolphin watching while ensuring the cute aquatic critters aren’t disturbed in their natural habitat. There’s a series of pop-up events across Aberdeen including interactive games, conservation talks, beach cleans and citizen science projects. Local schools will also get involved. In other words, somephin for everyone.

15-19 April,


Bon Scott was raised in Australia, where he also raised hell. But the AC/DC front man and heavy metal legend, who died in his twenties from an excess of everything, was born in Kirriemuir, where this festival takes place. Usually a sleepy Angus town, you can bet it will be wide awake when metal fans from around the world descend to celebrate their hero with much musical din and decadent behaviour. (Allegedly.) No doubt there will also be a few Spinal Tap types strumming their air guitars far too loudly. Top tip: If this happens, it’s always best practice to unplug the air guitars from the air amplifiers they’re attached to. That usually quietens things down a bit.

1-3 May

Glasgow Coffee Festival

A CONTROVERSIAL one, this. Everyone knows Glaswegians only drink whisky, Tennent’s Lager and Irn Bru. (With all three sometimes poured into the same long-stem glass, if it’s cocktail hour.) But a drink made from a bean? Surely the only purpose of any self-respecting bean is to be drenched in tomato sauce, then stuffed in a tin can. But perhaps we’re not up to date with the ever so smooth and modern Glesga gargler. In which case it’s definitely time to swing down to The Briggait, where baristas, bar owners and roasters will be giving presentations and providing samples to sip. A perfect opportunity to start tippling that tart yet tasty pitch-black brew.

2-3 May

Kelburn Garden Party

This music and arts festival takes place in a ravishing and wind-swept part of Scotland’s West Coast that’s not too far from Glasgow. Situated in the picturesque grounds surrounding Kelburn Castle, near Largs, you can either saturate yourself in the scenery or enjoy a diverse live music line-up showcasing new artists from Scotland and around the world. Musical genres include techno, disco, funk, jazz, dub, jungle, house, afrobeat and folk music. In other words, a little bit of everything and anything. There’s also theatre, art installations and pop up parties to enjoy.

3-6 July

Strathaven Balloon Festival

Shhhh! Don’t tell the organisers of this cloud-clambering event that the aeroplane was invented over a hundred years ago. It just might spoil their fun. Then again, aeroplanes are noisy beasts that have turned the adventure of long distance travel into a mundane activity involving not enough leg room and too many vacuous comments from the pilot. Whereas a hot air balloon jaunt is silky, silent and as splendiferous as a Jules Verne ripping yarn. This extravaganza allows families to enjoy the stunning sight of hot air balloons as they launch and fly. Now if only someone would bring back the zeppelin…

28-30 Aug

Huntly Hairst Food and Farming Festival

There’s plenty of locally sourced food to munch at this Aberdeenshire community event. There’s also lots to see and do, with everything connected to the culture of Huntly’s farming folk. Local musicians will be on hand, providing a tuneful backdrop to a series of literary and food-based activities. For those of a combative nature, there are cooking and baking competitions. The perfect opportunity to crush your adversaries into the dust. (And produce some tasty scoff, as well.) The highlight of these feisty food wars will no doubt be the hotly contested World Stovies Championships. A competition as illustrious as the Olympics. (In Aberdeenshire, at any rate.)

5 September

Aye Write!

What could be better than a festival with a pun in the title? Glasgow’s annual gathering of book-loving bods has something for everyone. For youngsters, comic novelist Philip Ardagh (whose surname sounds like the noise you’d make if a horse’s hoof trampled your foot) will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his hilarious Eddie Dickens Trilogy. There’s plenty for adults too, including writing classes and talks from cookery book authors, crime scribes, published politicians and every other type of literary lion and lioness. Oh, yes, and former Speaker John Bercow will be there too. Order, order.

12-29 March 2020.

Glasgow Festival of Burlesque

Get ready for some saucy shenanigans. No, that doesn’t mean enjoying the contents of a ketchup bottle. Burlesque is risqué routines, ravishing costumes and oodles of ooh-la-la. In other words, cabaret in all its curvy splendour. This sultry celebration will include a range of workshops and performances that are bound to be ripping fun. Or do we mean stripping fun? Perhaps not. After all, it does get a tad chilly for that sort of thing, come November…

14-15 November

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