Tamfest Coming Soon

Whisper it – Halloween’s just round the corner!

Tamfest is Ayrshire’s premier Halloween festival, organised and run by Ayr Festivals (a registered charitable organisation) working in partnership with South Ayrshire Council. Rooted in Ayrshire heritage, the festival was inspired by Robert Burns’ famous Tam-o’ Shanter poem and Tam’s unfortunate encounter with all manner of evil witches and warlocks.One of the festival’s principal organisers, Mererdith McCrindle, came along to our last meeting to explain the success of Tamfest since its inception in 2015. She explained that not long after arriving in Ayr from her native United States, she had recognised some of the significantly untapped potential of Burns’ global fame and she compared this with other, international money-spinning festivals such as Mozart Week in Salzburg (he and Burns were contemporaries). But more than that, Meredith was keen to make Burns more appealing to a younger audience by complementing traditional Burns events with modern versions while still retaining the original “message”.

As an amusing aside, Meredith cited the US town of Galveston, Texas, as an example of what can be done to capitalise on the appeal of history and heritage. Galveston has a hugely successful annual “Dickens on the Strand” week despite its only connection with the author being the similarity in its architecture to that of Victorian London. The conclusion is that people are prepared to travel to appreciate well-presented (even artificial) heritage and to experience historical excitement. How blessed is Ayr?

So Meredith asked herself “how can we make Burns more relevant to these younger folk and at the same time increase their pride in their home town and attract visitors from elsewhere. The answer of course was “Tamfest”.

Despite early difficulties in gaining support and funding, the success of Tamfest speaks for itself with ever-growing numbers of participants and visitors. According to Meredith, in its first year there was a 90% increase in footfall in the town centre during the event compared with the previous week. Its future looks assured and with council support for “virtual reality” techniques this can take the festival to an even wider audience and attract visitors from “all the airts and pairts”.

John Dunlop congratulated Meredith on her eloquently presented talk and on the ease with which she coped with a complete technical breakdown created by her hosts.