Ceilidh and supper in Arrowtown
This Saturday Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall will be transformed to be a wee bit Scottish as it hosts Burns Night celebrations. The event, which is in honour of the 18th Century poet Robert Burns, will include a three-course meal, good craic, poetry readings, a band, traditional dance and drinks. After a sell-out event last year, organiser Chris Hutton is expecting the same for this year.
Burns Night is a Scottish celebration on Robert Burns’ birthday, 25 January, that traditionally includes eating haggis, a dram or two, reciting some of his poems and songs, and some dancing, too. Burns is a Scottish national treasure and is widely regarded as the poet of Scotland. In addition to poetry, he also wrote and performed many folk songs. One thing Hutton really likes about Burns is that he tried to champion equality between rich and poor, as well as between the genders.
“Most of his work revolves around the theme of love,” Hutton explains of Burns. “He was a bit of a lad in the pub, I think, and he was a good storyteller – let’s put it that way. Although he liked to promote equality, he was also a bit of a lad with the ladies. He had several children with a few ladies, so that’s the theme of all his work. The sad thing was that at the end of his life, he fell in love with a person who was in the upper classes – he was a farmer’s son, so he ended up broken hearted.”
Hutton, who originally hails from Edinburgh, has been working hard behind the scenes to organise this year’s celebrations. Many hands have helped to make light work as Chris has been assisted by lots within the community. He started the event two years ago after Covid, pulling it together in just eight weeks and he wanted to have a bit of fun and a dance after all the lockdowns. The past two years have been hugely successful and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. One of the key components of the night is the band – locals ‘Hair of the Dog’ will be doing the honours.
“I kind of work with the band. It was all their fault, actually. The first Burns Supper and Ceilidh we put on, the band said to me ‘that was so much fun,’ and that we’ve got to do it again – book the hall. So, it’s all their fault that this turned into an annual event, but our aim is to have the best Burns Supper and Ceilidh in New Zealand – I know that we’re winning that prize because we’re the only one – there’s no one else that does a Burns Supper and Ceilidh together.”
As the band plays, there will be a caller to lead you with the traditional dance steps, helping you with the country dances so everyone can fully join in, even if they’ve never been to a ceilidh before. Part of the reason that people started to get together after Burns’ death was to meet with old friends, meet new friends, eat food, and celebrate the memory of a talented poet, lyricist and playwright.
The other major component of the night is the food. The chefs are cooking up something a little different for a starter and dessert this year, which has been kept under wraps. The traditional haggis will be piped in by a local piper and carried by the chef. It will be ceremoniously murdered before serving the main course.
“My advice for people is to put flat shoes on, because the dancing gets fairly loose. It’s a good fun night – the idea is to eat, drink, dance and have fun, and meet new people,” Hutton says.
Pop on your glad rags and dancing shoes for the Arrowtown Burns Supper and Ceilidh Dance. It’s happening this Saturday at Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall from 5.30pm.