President’s Yule and New Year Address

The term 2020 used to be something about vision and having perfect sight, this year it has come to mean something about a disastrous virus and the shutdown of normal systems of communication and gathering. 

It would have been easy to allow the restrictions to stop the things the Robert Burns World Federation wished to see achieved, but I am proud to say that with the innovative and dedicated Board of Directors in place this year, we have not let it hold us back and indeed if anything it has prompted a fresh and exciting review of the mission of the Federation to educate, celebrate and promote the works of Robert Burns, Scottish culture and the unique Scots Language.

In the three months since I became President, the Board has held three Lectures as part of TamFest and offered a St Andrew’s Lecture featuring Prof Patrick Scott on Burns manuscripts. It has also appointed its first ever Ambassador, Sir Geoff Palmer who will offer a lecture this coming March. The Events Committee put on a Yule Concert featuring young Burnsians and organised by JVP Alan Beck and hosted by SVP Henry Cairney.  

In the field of life long learning we offered our first ever Habbie writing competition and we intend to put onto the newly revamped website some educational materials to help budding poets write in this uniquely Scottish poetry form. 

As part of our educational offer, Education Convenor, Lesley McDonald is in contact with Clubs, schools and associations who usually offer Burns Competitions to see what is the best way to support them in the coming year and we have just recently redesigned the participation certificates.

Looking forward to 2021, to mark the birth of Robert Burns we have organised a virtual Burns Supper in January with most of the Directors taking key roles in the evening and hopefully some Directors will be dressed in the newly developed Robert Burns World Federation tartan which has already featured on new merchandise in the online shop. February will see a LoveFest event organised around the love poetry of Burns.

Probably biggest news of all is that we are looking forward to introducing new and stimulating events, at least one every month as well as refreshing the committee structure and the Quarterly Meeting of Members. 

As the new year progresses, we hope, once it becomes practical, to offer a programme of events based a the headquarters building in Kilmarnock, whilst not diminishing the worldwide reach offered by making the events we offer have global appeal. Our excellent support for heritage and culture is exemplified by the work of John Hannah and Bill Dawson and the spring will see the first edition of the newly reformatted Burns Chronicle, whilst Mike Duguid ensures that the good news of Burns worldwide is captured in the bi-monthly Newsletter, The Vision.

So as we near the year end of what has been a most difficult time, we can reclaim 2020 as that original meaning of perfect vision and state that going into 2021 we will build on what has been achieved and will amplify our intention to be visionaries in education and celebration by promoting the RBWF mission worldwide.

Marc R Sherland