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YES Arts Festival

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

The third biennial festival, held 14-17 September 2017, comprised a programme of visual arts, film, music, poetry, theatre and lectures to celebrate the distinctive character of Yarrow, Ettrick and Selkirk and showcase the creative talent of local people. The festival also welcomed guests from beyond the Borders to present, perform and partner with local people, with the view to offering a diverse programme to engage as broad a demographic as possible.

The festival took place at a range of local venues: Bowhill House and theatre, The Haining (a historical mansion and estate gifted to the people of Selkirkshire), the Victoria Halls, the Studio on the Green and the County Hotel in Selkirk, plus five rural pubs, cafes and village halls.

Towards the costs of dance and physical theatre workshops in collaboration with Dudendance. The 2017 festival included two full-day open dance and physical theatre workshops for up to 40 young people from Borders Youth Theatre, Selkirk High School and Rowland's Dry Bar. 

Professional theatre company Dudendance led these experimental workshops, which engaged the young people in creating Out of the Wild – a series of promenade performances in the woodlands of The Haining. Audiences encountered surreal, half-human, half-animal creatures to create a mesmeric and beautiful experience.

How did the funded project go?
We are delighted to say that our dance and physical theatre presentation Out of the Wild went very well indeed. Our partner, Dudendance, was able to stay in Selkirk prior to the Festival and run several preparatory and rehearsal workshops with local young people who went on to perform in the event. This was an important part of the process – for preparedness, for engagement, for buy-in and for marketing! The outdoor performances (three a day over two days) were sold out, despite mixed weather. 

And what's still to come?
We are still in our planning stages for any future endeavours. As we have worked with Dudendance more than once, we would like to evolve and introduce a new organisation to our Festival. However, we would definitely re-visit the concept of the outdoor promenade-type performance. We are privileged to have The Haining – with its woods, footpaths and lake – on our doorstep. It is a magical, memorable location to deliver performances. 

What tips would you give to other organisations seeking funding for this kind of work?
We would advise anyone hoping to do a similar thing to ensure that they build in time and costs for thorough preparation in situ – it is key. We made good use of our volunteer cohort as escorts – vital if you have children as audience members. We would also advise planning for poor weather, so make sure you have found a way to go ahead! 

What difference does this funding award make to the work you do?
We would not have been able to deliver this project without the support of The Robertson Trust funding. It allowed us to cover our costs required for thorough preparation, to engage professional actors and dancers as well as local young people, and provide costumes and props that enhanced the charm of our woodland characters.

As well as providing an engaging outdoor performance for entertainment purposes, we were also able to engage local young people as performers through partnering with Rowlands, a local centre for youngsters. Performing ‘professionally’ builds confidence and self-esteem, and creating through rehearsal teaches commitment and the value of endeavour.

In order to successfully apply for funding under our Giving Strategy 2016-19, applicants must demonstrate how their work will contribute to one or more of the themes within the Trust's three new funding strands.

This application was eligible as a result of its fit with the following theme:

Funding Strand: Realising PotentialTheme 3: Broadening horizons and nurturing talents among Scotland’s young people


  • “Through our Realising Potential funding stand, we’re keen to support proactive approaches which provide opportunities for young people to participate and develop skills. The YES Arts Festival has a strong reputation for bringing together local artists and makers to celebrate the unique culture of the Scottish Borders, and we particularly liked that the 2017 festival included two full-day open dance and physical theatre workshops for young people. Increased inclusion is a priority of the Trust and we were very happy to support this project and the diverse range of activities it offers.”

 Lesley Macdonald, Head of Giving