GRAHAM Main is the executive producer of the Big Burns Supper Festival, an 11-day celebration of Scotland’s national bard which will see big names from music, cabaret, comedy and entertainment perform in a series of concerts and events in Dumfries, where Robert Burns lived from 1791 until his death in 1796.

What are the aims and ethos of the Big Burns Supper Festival?

Big Burns Supper is a festival shaped around the celebration of Burns Night as a coming together and winter gathering. It is about the meaning of Burns Night rather than just Robert Burns. It is a deliberate attempt to get people out of their houses in the middle of the hardest part of the year to socialise. The festival is about friendship and togetherness which is vitally important in today’s world of cyber-isolation.

Can you tell us who will be appearing?

Le Haggis, Donovan, Dougie Maclean, Ocean Wisdom, Public Service Broadcasting, We Banjo 3, Eddi Reader, Camille O’Sullivan, Bill Bailey, Badly Drawn Boy and more.

When you’re choosing the line-up, is there something about them that has to relate to Burns?

We knew from the outset that Big Burns Supper had to be anything but formal and that programming value has remained central to our ideology ever since. The festival is best understood as a massive eleven day version of Auld Lang Syne – holding a hand of friendship to each other and meeting new people along the way. We use culture as a way to motivate attendance, but Burns Night is more than just the programme that we present – it has become about coming out and being sociable with each other.

How are local people involved in the festival?

We spend a great deal of our energy helping to activate participation, and our programme is put together by a team of 30 different community curators. Last year we counted that over 1700 local people were involved in realising the festival. This is a party for local people with an open invitation for the rest of the world to attend. Every year we have hundreds of local performers who do their turn alongside international artists. Dumfries is a magical wee town with a big heart, and it plays a great part in the idea of the festival.

Is the festival partly about helping to show the relevance of Burns to today’s world?

Scotland’s sexiest cabaret, Le Haggis was born out of Big Burns Supper and it runs twice a night from the Spiegeltent on the Whitesands, about ten metres away from where Robert Burns lived.

It’s basically a reworking of the model behind a Burns Supper, without the food and with a little more verve and humour. Last year we asked some of our audience if they knew any of the Burns songs before the show was born, and a staggering 92 per cent of the audience said they were discovering Burns for the first time.

It’s the seventh year of the festival. How has it changed over the years?

For our 2018 edition a lot of our programme is going digital as we attempt to connect more of a global audience with our festival. We will have stacks of online content shaped around some of the big names appearing at the festival. Our festival is still about giving people an invite to celebrate Burns Night and handing them a brochure of over 200 shows and events, and letting them decide how they want to celebrate it.

The Big Burns Supper runs from January 18 to January 28. Tickets for all events can be purchased through