Music has made a welcome return to Irvine Burns club’s Wellwood HQ after it closed down due to the pandemic.

The Strathclyde University Choir was the last group to appear at Irvine Burns Club’s Musical Evenings prior to its Wellwood Burns Centre & Museum closing in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So it was fitting that the same group should get a very warm welcome at the re-launching, albeit temporarily, of the club’s musical programme to mark the first steps towards normality beginning last week (Wednesday, October 27).

Changes had to be introduced to comply with Covid restrictions, including pre-booking of tickets, a vastly reduced audience of only 32 persons, Track & Trace info being collected and social distancing being in place.

But the Wellwood audience was happy to comply with these changing circumstances and were able to enjoy an entertaining evening of choral singing in Wellwood’s unique setting.

Bill Cowan, the Irvine Burns Club Director said: “We’ve had to cancel our entire programme for the past 18 months, not only for the final events of the 2019/20 Season but also the entire programme for Autumn 2020 and for Spring 2021, because of Covid-led restrictions and lockdowns.

“We always hoped that we could start our concerts again before the end of 2021 and are delighted to have been able to make this happen. From their positive response, our customers clearly welcomed our efforts to stage concerts again and guests accepted that new protocols had to be in place to comply with current restrictions. As these become fewer, then we would hope to welcome larger audiences and are looking at staging another couple of concerts later this season.”

“Arrangements are already in place for a duo consisting of a Classical Guitarist and a Flautist now resident in Glasgow to be playing in late April and that brings a totally different genre of music to our Wellwood Concert Series. By promoting a variety of music, we are already drawing audiences from other parts of Ayrshire and beyond and are becoming known as a community-focussed group with an interest that goes far beyond the boundaries of the songs and poems of Robert Burns, or the music of Scotland.

While delighted with this successful musical event recently staged within Wellwood, Bill Nolan, Irvine Burns Club’s Honorary Secretary, was keen to emphasise that hosting last week’s musical event should not be viewed as a return to normality for Irvine Burns Club and its Burns Museum. In fact, both will face massive changes before Wellwood can again open its doors to visitors and a review is currently taking place of the Museum’s leading attractions and how they can be better presented. Unfortunately, the entire programme of visits to Wellwood by local Primary Schools was cancelled earlier this year and with none currently planned for next January, this is clearly a huge hurdle to be overcome.

As Nolan commented “We have always attracted large groups of children, many of whom are getting an introduction not only into the works of Robert Burns but also that of other Scottish writers. We encouraged them by letting them see Burns’s manuscripts close-up and some had the rare experience of handling a first edition of his “Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect”, his famous Kilmarnock Edition, first published in Kilmarnock in July 1786 by John Wilson. Similar experiences are probably not going to be possible for some time to come and we are actively looking at ways of promoting and developing our firmly-established “Burns in Irvine” programme in a different but still very exciting format.”