Bard takes pride of place for Homecoming

ROBERT Burns's official birthplace in Ayrshire will take centre stage for the launch of Scotland's "Homecoming" celebrations next month.

Various famous locations in Alloway – including the Burns Cottage and Brig o' Doon – will play host to a sound-and-light show to be created by artists from across the UK.

Audiences who snap up free tickets in a ballot for the two-hour event on 24 January will be led on a promenade-style route through Alloway.

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The village will also hold the official Homecoming Burns Supper, the centrepiece event on 25 January, to be hosted by Alex Salmond, the First Minister.

More than 400 other Burns Suppers all over the world have already signed up to an official website to ensure they are part of the world's biggest ever celebration of the Bard.

Meanwhile, Dumfries will host a torchlight procession through the streets where Burns spent the latter part of his life.

The Burns Light event will climax in a spectacular finale at the River Nith, featuring music, film, poetry and the burning of a fire sculpture. At Glasgow's Celtic Connections, the festival will feature a 12-hour Burns concert, a Jamaican-themed Burns Night and a classical gala. The Red Hot Chilli Pipers will also lead a free celebration in George Square.

In Edinburgh, special events are planned at the National Library of Scotland, the Museum of Scotland and the Scottish Story-telling Centre.

Shirley Bell, chief executive of the Robert Burns World Federation, said: "We are delighted that people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe are able to participate in the many splendid Homecoming events taking place during 2009. We are especially pleased that the 250th anniversary of the Poet's birth will set the scene for an exciting year."

Paul Bush, chief operating officer of the national event agency EventScotland, said: "For Homecoming Scotland 2009, the Burns Night celebrations extend across the weekend and indeed throughout the year.

"The programme offers more than 300 events across the country," he added.