Arts festival will benefit both Byre and Botanics

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Michael Downes is enjoying the early summer weather – and his fingers are very firmly crossed that the sunshine lasts right across the season.

For Professor Downes is the Byre Theatre’s artistic director, and one of the forces behind the Byre in the Botanics festival which runs from the end of June to early August – and even though audiences will be afforded cover, he hopes they will be able to enjoy performances bathed in warm sunlight.

Dr Michael Downes

Dr Michael Downes

He’s optimistic, even as he is about to step down from his post with the Byre to return to duties as Director of Music at St Andrews University, in particular overseeing the development of a new music centre in Queens Garden: “We are making he most of the St Andrews summer,” he said,”it is a beautiful place in summer and this is a really exciting new venture which we hope people will embrace.”

Professor Downes is enjoying the challenge of putting on dozens of shows – from film to dance, opera to theatre – over several weeks, while still running a full programme at the Byre Theatre itself: “It’s lovely to be collaborating with the gardens because it is a beautiful venue and we feel we can help bring more people in to enjoy the gardens. They Byre is still at an early stage in its reopening and this is about spreading the word about us both – we both have a lot to gain from this collaboration.”

He sees it is a chance for the Byre to do different things that the theatre could not accommodate. Big names need big audiences, Professor Downes said, explaining: “Samantha Barks needs a big audience to flourish – and we can get a big audience into the gardens.”

Samantha Barks, famous for her role in Les Miserables, is one highlight that Professor Downes is looking forward to. She opens the festival on June 30 with her only Scottish date, and it runs for five weekends, ending on July 29 with a performance of the Scottish play, MacBeth.

And Professor Downes is anticipating much more: “OperaUpClose’s production of Carmen is something I am looking forward to – one of the most famous operas in the world performed by a fantastic young group from London. JSLN Ballet from Berlin is internationally acclaimed, and their performance will be another highlight for me, in an international line up.”

He’s also enthusiastic about talent from closer to home: “Breabach is another act I’m keen to see – and not forgetting Capercaillie, who are a great group.”

And to encourage audiences of all ages and experience, the JSLN production has free tickets for under-16s accompanied by an adult.

More information and ticket booking for Byre in the Botanics is available at www.standrewsbyreinthe
botanics.com.