PEEBLES was full of creative colour last weekend as the Peebles Arts Festival delivered a wonderfully eclectic programme of events that inspired and entertained young and old.

Condensed into a long weekend, this year’s festival packed in more than 30 events across four days, with festival-goers able to choose from a range of live music and theatre, walks, talks, an open galleries evening involving 35 venues around town, creative workshops and impromptu performances.

Saturday was a particularly lively day with the traditional High Street Busking Competition ensuring that locals and unsuspecting visitors alike were serenaded by a range of extremely talented musicians. Local bluegrass/country group The Coohands won the senior competition, while Olivia Maclean from Edinburgh, who won the junior competition for the second year running, was presented with the Dennis Todd Memorial Shield by the Callants.

It would also have been hard not to notice Mutxiko, a 30-strong group of dancers and musicians from Peebles’ twin town of Hendaye in the Basque country of France who entertained crowds in front of the Tontine Hotel and Pennel’s Close, before an exuberant performance at the Eastgate Theatre on Sunday. It was the dance troupe’s third visit to Peebles, and its first since 2005.

“Many people have commented on how much vibrancy, colour and joie de vivre the French brought to Peebles with their performances,” said Andrew Grieve, Chair, Peebles-Hendaye Twinning Committee. “The lasting legacy of their visit however are the friendships forged between host families and our Hendaye visitors. I’d like to extend my thanks to all of our hosts for their generosity and support. I’d also like to thank the Peebles Community Council for hosting the civic reception.”

Mirari Dambolenea, Mutxiko group leader, also extended her thanks to the festival committee, the Twinning Committee and, in particular, the host families. “We’ve all so enjoyed our third visit to Peebles and hope that there won’t be such a long gap until the next one!” she said.

Elsewhere, the Eastgate Theatre was also a centre of activity, with a range of live performances and fun workshops, while so too were the Burgh Hall and Chambers Institution, which between them hosted various writers’ workshops, talks, exhibitions and craft sessions.

Further along the High Street, Michael Jessing attracted many people into Pennel’s Close for a talk about his ongoing Peebles Mural project, while he also encouraged young artists to transform the hexagonal slabs in the courtyard into multi-coloured works of art during his Chalk it Up sessions.
“Children are uninhibited about experimenting with colour and this was the perfect venue for the activity,” commented arts festival committee member, Chris Sawers. “The festival is all about encouraging everyone to get involved, plus of course having fun!”

Sadly, this year’s much-anticipated festival lecture had to be cancelled when the speaker, Lord Smith of Kelvin, was taken ill, but the weekend still delivered plenty of other highlights. Award-winning Scottish crime writer Alex Gray gave a fascinating talk about her work; the young actors of Shakespeare at Traquair put on two fantastic performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; chamber music lovers were dazzled by the performance of South Korean pianist Young-Choon Park; while children were enthralled by author Tim Archbold’s tales (and scribbles) of things that go bump in the night from his latest book, Bagpipes, Beasties and Bogles.

“It was a wonderful weekend enjoyed by locals and visitors alike,” said Douglas Roberts, a member of the organising committee.  “Once again, we were able to highlight the diverse range of artistic talent found locally, while also adding some international colour. We’d like to thank everyone involved for their support and participation.”