DunsPlayFest returns this year with a fresh new look

Top: Sarah Allan, John McEwen and Linda Gray at the Borders College, Galashiels and her  winning design. Bottom: Some of the students giving client presentations of their work at the Volunteer Hall, Duns.
Top: Sarah Allan, John McEwen and Linda Gray at the Borders College, Galashiels and her winning design. Bottom: Some of the students giving client presentations of their work at the Volunteer Hall, Duns.

The first DunsPlayFest was held in Duns in May last year and was a great success.

The festival is unique, the first of its kind in the Borders and probably Scotland, celebrating new dramatic writing by local Border playwrights.

The event was packed with play premieres, workshops, cabaret performances, community events, food, drink and fun.

With over 30 events on the programme, including 20 plays, over 25 organisations were involved: primary schools and high school, charities, theatre groups, community groups, and local and national businesses.

Another contribution to the success was the atmosphere created in the main venue, the Volunteer Hall, and in Duns generally during the eight days.

The Volunteer Hall, owned and managed by A Heart for Duns, was transformed for the occasion by Allanbank Arts who created an informal, cosy atmosphere which induced people to stay: to watch a play, a cabaret, a film, listen to a story, have a go at improvisation comedy, learn how to write a play, discuss acting with actors and directors, enjoy a meal with friends, have a drink, or simply soak up the atmosphere from the comfort of a sofa or chair.

This year’s festival will be held from May 2-9. Duns Players, who host the festival, are a small team of volunteers that includes actors, playwrights, artists, theatre lovers and professional people who want DunsPlayFest to progress and improve each year.

Part of that progression, this year, was to create a brand or look that expresses the kind of event that DunsPlayFest has become. Their first look was ‘edgy’ because they felt there would be a ‘fringe’ feel to the programme, but this turned out to have a wider appeal.

It was suggested they work with the Borders College in Galashiels and the 2nd year students completing the course HND in Graphic Design to create this new look.

John McEwen, the festival chair and Linda Gray, marketing manager, met and briefed tutor John McNeill in mid-August.

They supplied a detailed brief and schedule arranging to give feedback on the students’ work as it progressed, with a plan for ten students to present their ideas and artwork initially and to make a short list of three contenders, and finally, after client presentations of the students’ work, to pick a winner. The winner, Sarah Allan, was chosen in December from a very high standard of design solutions.

Sarah has lived in Biggar for seven years and attended Beeslack High School in Penicuik.

She previously completed an Art and Design course at Borders College and decided to stay on to study Graphic Design.

Currently in her second year, Sarah chose the Borders College because she has family in the Borders area.

She said: “I was genuinely surprised that I won because the entries were of such a high standard, so I think I’m still trying to take it in.

“However, the win has made me realise that people do like my work and has given me the confidence to continue with graphic design in the future, along with my portraiture commissions and photography work.”

John McEwen said: “The collaboration between DunsPlayFest and the Borders College design department has proved a great experience for us and is exactly the sort of partnership with local expertise that we hope to develop.

“The tutors and the students were charming and helpful and focused throughout, our only difficulty came when it was time to choose the winning design.

“It was hard enough narrowing the choice down to three, as all ten were, I thought, truly excellent, and then the final winner.

“Eventually we settled on Sarah’s wonderful, calm, sophisticated expression, and we are so happy with it.

“Thank you so much to everyone who helped us at Borders College and thank you especially to Sarah.”