Singing, dancing and performing your way back from a pandemic doesn’t sound too bad a strategy – and can provide a credible approach to urban and rural regeneration.

“It stands to reason that music and the arts tap into energies and emotions in a way that other activities simply can’t,” according to Meredith McCrindle, the driving force behind Ayr’s annual Tamfest.

Now expanded to encompass events all year long, Tamfest originally started out as a celebration of two unlikely bedfellows; Robert Burns and Hallowe’en, through the link of the classic Halloween poem, Tam O’Shanter.

Its purpose is already established as an Ayrshire artistic showcase; bringing together talent and tourism across Ayrshire, currently in a virtual sense but widening to encompass the footfall and spending of visitors again as soon as pandemic uncertainty allows.

With Tamfest just seven years old, Meredith draws a modest comparison with the Wigtown Book festival.

Launched in 1999, the last in-person festival is reported to have brought more than 10,000 visitors to the wee market town in Dumfries and Galloway, 40 per cent of whom stayed in local hotels and B&Bs, with 100 per cent of visitors likely to spend at least something, boosting local shops and cafés.

The Largs Viking Festival sees queues lengthen even more outside the famous ice cream emporium of Nardinis, with over 70,000 visitors registered in the last published figures, bringing a reported economic boost to the town of £350,000 over just eight days.

The most recent in-person Tamfest parade increased footfall to Ayr town centre by over 90 per cent (compared with a “normal” day’s trading) with over 8,000 people coming along to join in the fun.

South Ayrshire Council is one of the key sponsors of Tamfest, and Councillor Chris Cullen, South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy and Culture said, “There is so much going on in Ayrshire at the moment and it is only right that the region has its own festival to celebrate both our historic links with Robert Burns and the very best of contemporary performance arts. And, while local economic gain is welcome, the benefits to the energy of the region; the promotion of arts to a wider market and the chance to show off what Ayrshire has to offer visitors should not be underestimated.”

A report in 2018 by the Scottish Government suggests Scotland may be only scratching the surface so far. The report estimated the value of Burns to the Scottish economy as just over £200million. However, the report estimated the value of Mozart to the Austrian economy at around five billion dollars.

Meredith, an American now living in Ayr, said: “The first year we ran just a small itinerary of events and attracted maybe 1,000 people but even amidst Covid restrictions, we expect our virtual event in 2021 to sell out quickly.We expect to welcome over 200,000 virtual guests overall this year.

“Next year we hope to be able to run events in person again and to welcome up to 10,000 visitors to Ayr itself.

“Tamfest is now a significant contributor to the local economy, as well as providing a source of interest, talent and local pride.”

The Gaiety Theatre was one of the founding partners of Tamfest and CEO, Jeremy Wyatt said: “We’re proud to be still playing our part. This year providing filming and other support has taken the place of live performances with audiences – using the new capacities we’ve developed during the pandemic.

“As restrictions ease we are looking forward to enjoying Tamfest 2021 “Wi’ merry sangs…And unco tales an’ funnie jokes” as Burns put it.”

Gordon Smith, Regional Director, VisitScotland said: “Events like Tamfest are an important part of the visitor economy in Ayrshire. It is estimated that events brought a direct spend of £6billion to Scotland in 2019.”