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John Muir Festival 2014

John Muir Festival launch (photo: Colin Hattersley) 

The John Muir Festival 2014 is to open with a  spectacular night-time arts event – on the theme of Scotland as Home – which also marks the international launch of the nation’s new cultural  landmark, The Kelpies.

The Festival - a key Homecoming Scotland event running from 17-26 April 2014 -  celebrates the opening of the John Muir Way: a new coast to coast  national pathway from Muir’s birthplace in Dunbar to Helensburgh.

The celebration marks the start of a series of exciting John Muir Festival events over nine days and is a signature event in the Year of  Homecoming programme. This begins with the two evenings, 17 and 18  April, of one-off, specially-commissioned night-time artworks  illuminating Helix Park in Falkirk, as thousands gather round the iconic Kelpies for an extraordinary animation of the sculptures to a pulsating  soundtrack.

Artist Andy Scott’s colossal 300-tonne, 30-metre  high horses heads’ sculptures will be ‘brought to life’ with a breath-taking light, sound and flame performance by Groupe F, the  internationally renowned pyrotechnic company which famously lit up the  Eiffel Tower at the Millennium.

The Kelpies form a dramatic  centrepiece to the £43 million Helix development, which is expected to  attract an additional 350,000 visitors per year and add £1.5 million in  annual tourism spend to the Falkirk area. They pay homage to the  tradition of the working horses of Scotland. They stand where horses  used to pull barges along Scotland’s canals and worked in the fields.

The Kelpies stand on either side of a new one-kilometre canal extension  which will open up the inland waterways to international marine traffic  and tourism. The development is the result of a unique collaboration  between the Helix partners – Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals and the  Big Lottery Fund - and Glasgow-based artist, Andy Scott, which has been  seven years in the making.

The John Muir Festival 2014  celebrates the life and legacy of pioneering conservationist John Muir,  and marks the opening of a new national pathway, the John Muir Way,  named in his honour.

A host of events are planned daily along  the route: ramblers, runners and cyclists will be invited to carry  Muir-themed flags along sections, while a gang of bearded John Muir  lookalikes will provide fun photo opportunities as well as  thought-provoking quotes from Muir’s writings. A camera obscura will  offer a new perspective on the surrounding landscape. There will be seed  bombing with Scottish wild flowers. A stylised tree will be raised at  the launch and the finale in tribute to Muir’s enduring love of giant  sequoias. And in a quieter, more reflective tribute, an American and a  Scots poet will walk the length of the John Muir Way at their own  unhurried pace, planting native seeds and writing poetry along the way.

Tickets for the Falkirk and Loch Lomond events, as well as the full  Festival programme including details of over 70 associated Festival  events, are available online at: johnmuirfestival.com.

Produced by UZ Arts, the John Muir Festival is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Homecoming Scotland and Creative Scotland. Home is also supported by Big Lottery Fund, Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals and Falkirk Community Trust.
This article was published on 05 Mar 2014