Wednesday, 17 September 2008

St Helen's Primary

Well today went very well! First school and a big success. I intended to combine technology with the old story and judging by the feedback it proved a good mix. Around 45 youngsters and 4 teachers all had good fun, gave some excellent feedback and learned something too!
Alice Quinn the HT subsequently sent me this list, which she thought covered some of what the children had learned..


• King George 11 (1727 - 1760)
• King Edward II ( 1284 - 1327)
• Battle of Killicrankie (1689) Highland clans supporting James II
• Battle of Culloden Moor ( 1746) Highland clans supporting Charles
• Bonnie Prince Charlie
• Jacobites
• Battle of Bannockburn (1314)
• Trip back in time via ‘Tardis’
• Male dress of 18th Cent Scotland


• Inverness
• Places above
• Highlands and Lowlands
• Ayrshire
• Mount Oliphant
• Tarbolton
• Edinburgh
• Dumfries
• Map of Scotland
• Newfoundland
• Jamaica

Poetry and Music

• The Twa Dugs ( social subjects – rich and poor)
• Rantin Rovin Robin
• The Belles of Mauchline ( Rap)
• To a Mouse
• To a Louse
• Scots Wha Hae- tie in with Battle of Bannockburn
• Auld Lang Syne – meaning of song
• Willie Wastle’s Wife – Burns’ humour
• Tam O’ Shanter – classic tale, illustrated by slides
• Kilmarnock Edition Poems
• Edinburgh Edition Poems


• Money raised by sale of both editions (above) – old coinage
• Distances
• Ages
• Shillings / value


Numerous opportunities for discussion and questions. Some of the children’s questions were:

• Was King George II ‘Mad King George?
• What was Burns’ most famous poem? (Debate – give opinion)
• Why did Burns Doctor’s treatment lead to his death rather than a cure?
• How long did Jean Armour live after Burns died?
• How did you ( the presenter) start off in your interest of Burns’ life and work?

Some opportunities for further development:

Research / discussion / writing / Activities

• What is an old clay Biggin?
• What is a ‘keystone’? ( Tam O’ Shanter)
• Why did Meg have to run for the keystone?
• Why was Bonnie Prince Charlie not on the throne?
• What were his followers called and why?
• Why did Highlanders have a bad time after the Battle of Culloden?
• Why did William Burness have to leave his home in the Highlands and come to the Lowlands?
• Where is Newfoundland?
• What is the name of the River in Dumfries?
• On a map of Scotland, plot named places, measure distances.
• What was Burns’ meaning by the lines ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’
• What was Burns’ meaning by the lines ‘the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley’?

This truly was ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’ and the children learned more in 90 minutes than they would have done in a year.

I would thoroughly recommend that any Primary or Secondary school buy into this tremendous resource
A.Quinn HT St Helen's Primary

Monday, 15 September 2008

How do you sell a show...... this one?
I don't know really. There is a market for it out there. I am certain but reaching it is not easy. I have approached some agents and they simply want to add my name to hundreds of others on the books and "see what comes up". That won't work in this case. The audience has to be sought out.
So.....initial ideas are mailing of clubs, societies, and a few schools. School interest is very high but as I still work full-time I can only manage a few at this stage, using them as part of my pilot for the conference presentation (see earlier). As to the rest...I have sent a few hundred brochures out...let's wait and see. I would really love to take this abroad. I am sure it would go a storm in Russia, the USA, Canada....and a host of others but, as a one-man operation I cannot set that up. Ideas anyone?

About the show itself

The show is primarily aimed at adults but there is a shorter school version too. The issue is that Burns wrote a great deal of 'adult' material which is not best suited to 10 years there has to be 2 versions. It is in full costume as can be seen here and uses Burns own songs and poems to tell his life story. I take a chronological tour from before his birth until after his death ....suggesting why he wrote some of what he did....reciting the poems and singing the songs. There are several points to this but in the main entertainment and education, which is what I have done all my days. There is an audio visual element with a Powerpoint running behind me on stage. This details various locations important to Burns, gives the words to some songs (audience participation is a must!) and illustrates some of the poems: all of which hopefully increase understanding and improve the experience of the audience.


The calendar at shows about a dozen bookings. Most for the show but a few for other Burns bits I do. I am also booked up to present a 'panel' at the Burns conference at Glasgow University in January, talking about using technology to teach about Burns. See here. I will try and tie some bits of show into that too. I wear lots of hats really....musician, entertainer, teacher, lecturer, Burnsian, and have tried to combine many of them into this. I want to show that young people can be attracted to classics - like Burns work - if we as teachers use their language - which today is technology. So I have a few visits to schools planned and hopefully more to come.

CD too

To go along with the show I have been working on a CD over the last few months. This pulls together a long-time love I have of Scottish music and....Burns. It contains some songs I have been singing for years and some I have just learnt. One of the issues is marketing it. It is now downloadable (see link on but I have not yet worked out how best to physically sell it. Gigs will be one outlet and some of the many friends I have are also interested. In a week 30 have gone. Not exactly chart topping statistcs but reassuring at least. I might try some on E-bay (Lydia's idea). Any ideas welcome!

and so it starts....

This is a bit late really know what they say...better late than.....
Next year is Robert Burns 250th anniversary so, as a keen Burns fan I decided to write a one-man show to celebrate! It had its first pilot airing in Cupar in April and is now ready to go. All the details are on but I thought it would be interesting to record the journey as it continues....hopefully growing into a popular show...but ...who knows.
Cupar has an audience of approx 40 - and was for a local charity. A re-run for a different charity is now scheduled for November.