Robert Burns’ iconic Hallowe’en poem, Tam O’ Shanter, was written in 1790 and, at almost a quarter of a millennium old, is still thrilling audiences.

As the centrepiece of Ayrshire’s Tamfest festival, it helped attract many thousands of people worldwide to tune in to “Creepy, Eerie, Goudie and Eddi” on Hallowe’en 2021.

This was a celebration of the pictures painted to illustrate the poem by Alexander Goudie, stories brought to life by his son, broadcaster Lachlan Goudie, plus live music from Eddi Reader and Cameron Nixon.

The link remains live on YouTube and is expected to gain many more thousands of hits as the traditional Burns season draws closer.

The ongoing pandemic meant Tamfest remained largely online again this year, but Meredith McCrindle, the driving force behind the festival said: “Ironically, going online has helped us to grow faster than we might have otherwise.

“We have already passed 200 thousand online visitors during 2021, with “Tam Beyond Reality”, a virtual storytelling event in October, attracting visitors from Russia, Canada, New Zealand, USA and China.

“This allowed us to combine contemporary technology with atmospheric language and folklore, told by a “virtual” Tam himself.

“We were also able to host almost 20 virtual performances this year by Burns’ aficionados from the Robert Burns World Federation and the Robert Burns Association of North America.”

The benefits to Ayrshire and Scottish tourism of online exposure are obvious but one of the key aims of Tamfest is to draw people to the county in person. The event management team was therefore particularly pleased to be able to create a “Tam O’ Shanter Trail of Terror” in Bellisle Park this year, with spooky installations and imagery to spook and thrill families and walkers.

Tamfest was supported this year through the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund, designed to help the events sector plan and deliver events in response to Covid-19. Tamfest also enjoys continuing sponsorship and in-kind support from South Ayrshire Council.

Gordon Smith, Regional Director, VisitScotland says: “Events like Tamfest are an important part of the visitor economy in Ayrshire and Arran. It is estimated that events brought a direct spend of £6 billion to Scotland in 2019. Tourism and events makes Scotland richer, economically and socially, and without them Scotland would be a much poorer place.”

Meredith added: “While Robert Burns is an enduring source of inspiration and pride for Ayrshire, when the pandemic struck, we would not have been able to transform Tamfest so quickly and effectively into an online format without the fabulous support we have received. I’d particularly like to thank South Ayrshire Council and EventScotland.

“With imagination, hard work and their investment, we have been able to make Tamfest reach further than ever through lockdown. We are also now able to run events all year long and are looking forward to attracting a record number of visitors to live events in 2022.”