Is this Scotland’s most exciting town?
To many travellers and outsiders (anyone from more than ten miles away), the little town of Biggar is usually something that they see fleetingly in their rear-view mirror as they speed up the A702 towards Edinburgh and perhaps beyond, to the scenic highlands.
This little town (population about 2300) has just completed its annual arts festival (The Biggar Little Festival) presenting over ninety events and exhibitions including theatre, dance, music, literature and painting. Visitors looking for practical involvement could try their hand at sculpting stone, carving wood, jewellery making and sewing. This year was the Festival’s fifteenth anniversary.
Popular events this year were Eastfield and Harthill Flute Orchestra, Chorale Le Chene De Bundy (from near Paris), and talks by authors Patrick Barkham and Chris Dolan. There was also a children’s programme and a young musician competition.
Biggar has its own Museum, imaginatively re-conceived and re-housed a few years ago but amazingly, also has its own working gas-works (the last remaining town gasworks in Scotland), a glassworks and a pottery. There is also a flourishing puppet theatre as well as a theatre for conventional productions.
It also recently held a Science Festival (The Biggar Science Festival) where visitors could for example, inspect Tesla Electric Cars, hear a lecture on ‘What has the Catholic Church Ever Done for Science?’ and learn how to improve their golf handicap by using physics.
Summer sees the annual Biggar Gala Week where a parade complete with floats and pipe bands is followed by a rideout and the crowning of the ‘Fleming Queen’.
And just in case the winter months get too dreary, at Hogmanay the town puts on one of the most startling and scary events in Scotland – the Biggar Bonfire – this really has to be seen. The tradition of building a fire to ward off evil spirits for another year has been kept ‘alight’ for hundreds of years. The bonfire is almost as big as the Corn Exchange in the high street where it is lit, and is a real traffic-stopper (just as well). Again, there is no other town in Scotland where this is allowed to happen (and you can see why).
How does such a tiny community manage to put on so many amazing shows? There may be no answer to this. I can only salute the spirit of this amazing place with a toast at the popular (of course) Biggar Little Beer Festival.