In the beginning was the Tinto folk festival. But the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001 caused a crisis in British agriculture and tourism, and many rural events like Tinto were cancelled.
All was not lost, and Biggar Little Festival grew from the seeds that remained. From small beginnings in 2002, it is now widely recognised as one of the biggest, best, and most popular festivals in Scotland.
Located on the boundary between Lanarkshire and the Borders, it would be understandable if Biggar was a little confused about its real identity. But not so! It is an active, independent community, and defines itself by what it does.
The old traditions, like the Fleming pageantry, the riding of the marches, and New Year’s Eve bonfire are enthusiastically kept alive. Vibrant, small businesses rise to the economic challenges. Biggar’s heritage is expressed in many ways, not least by our several museums.
In such a diverse community as Biggar, the festival organisers have struggled to come up with single themes for BLF and have settled on a Festival of the Five Arts – with a strong message that there is something for everyone. The ethos has been to bring together all the skill and talent that exists here, and encourage groups and clubs, large and small, to put on their own events during the festival period. We have concentrated on coordinating, consolidating, and promoting these events, under the banner of an easily recognisable brand – BLF. A leading figure in the development and growing success of the festival was David Roberts, who sadly died on 1 June 2005.
In recent years we have looked for gaps in coverage, and have tried to do something new every year – music, drama, comedy, and magic. We have attracted some of the big names of the Scottish entertainment scene, and even established an international connection, when, in 2009, we hosted a Polish ladies choir. It is hard to draw out highlights – there have been so many!
We have even run a few events outside the span of the main festival in October (like our annual spring music Festival at Persilands) to remind people that another festival will be coming soon.
Overall, it is a community festival, which seeks to involve as many people as possible, and encourage them to develop and share their talents.
During the 2015 Festival the Committee commissioned an appraisal from the independent consultancy company EKOS to gauge the success of the festival and lessons to be learned. The resulting report is available here. The Committee is now considering how to take forward the issues raised.
The Annual General Meeting of Biggar Little Festival will take place on Monday 12th June at the Elphinstone Hotel, 136 High Street, Biggar at 7.30pm. All welcome.