Duns Play Fest

DunsPlayFest is imminent…


On Saturday May 4ththe bustling but undemonstrative town of Duns in the Scottish Borders will be delighted to find in its midst a brand-new festival – DunsPlayFest, an eight-day celebration of brand-new drama! Packed with premieres, workshops, cabaret performances, community events, food, drink and frolics, DunsPlayFest promises to provide dramatic fun for all.

The festival grew out of the happy marriage between the ambitious local theatre troupe, Duns Players (which has recently forged a considerable reputation for its high-quality productions of classics and new Scottish writing), and Playwrights Studio Scotland which in 2017 set up a playwriting workshop in the Borders guided by the award-winning playwright Jules Horne.

Out of this workshop emerged several plays which Duns Players thought they would like to stage. As plans were formulated, it became clear that other events could happily gather around the productions, and so the idea for a festival began to crystallise. Soon, a full programme began to come together and before long DunsPlayFest became a reality involving not just Duns Players and Playwrights Studio Scotland but also all of the following organisations: AHeart For Duns; Allanbank Arts; Creative Scotland; Lammermuir Community Fund; Blackhill Windfarm Community Fund; Live Borders; Borders Young Creatives; Borders Pub Theatre; Berwickshire High School; Duns Primary School; University of the Third Age; Alzheimers Scotland; Dignity in Dementia; Writers in the Library (Creative Writing for Mindfulness and Wellbeing); Community Lunch Club; The Open University; Treading the Borders Theatre Company; Borders Youth Theatre; Alchemy Film Festival; Moving Image Makers' Collective; Berwickshire Wheels; Borders Mental Health Awareness Week.

The week will kick off on Saturday May 4thwith a fancy-dress tea party to which all are invited, especially those disguised as a character from a play or film. This will be followed by a performance of Borders Pub Theatre’s programme of eight ten-minute plays and a semi-staged performance of Emily Larner’s play Turning Tide. The following seven days will be just as packed (please see our website and the attached complete 24pp programme. We are also on Facebook Duns Play Fest) and the week will culminate with a ceilidh driven by the exciting young local band The Coostie Folk. 

The watch-word of the festival is inclusivity. DunsPlayFest wants to welcome the world into the fabulously adorned (by Allanbank Arts) Volunteer Hall, Duns, TD11 3AF, to enjoy, consider, talk about, drama. We believe that theatre matters, especially these days, and we want to share our love and enthusiasm for this thrilling art form. Come in to the Volunteer Hall and see what’s on! and see attached complete 24pp programme


More details of individuals and organizations involved in DunsPlayFest

John McEwen DunsPlayFest innovator and Festival Director 

John lives on a small-holding in Berwickshire with his wife, who is a teacher, and their four children. Actor, writer, director. Heavily involved with the Duns Players, burgeoning local theatrical group. Previously, journalist for 25 years. Rediscovered the theatre in 2013 when cast as Rickie Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross. Director of DunsPlayFest, week-long festival of new drama in Duns, May 2019.

A lesser known fact about John is he is Commander of Clan MacEwen.

Playwrights Studio, Scotland

Playwrights' Studio, Scotland is the nation's only arts organisation exclusively dedicated to the long-term support, development and promotion of Scotland's playwrights. They work actively and creatively with playwrights, connecting them with audiences and organisations, for the ultimate enrichment and enjoyment of the people of Scotland and beyond.

Jules Horne and Borders Pub Theatre

Jules Horne playwright, radio dramatist and fiction writer has written many plays for theatre and radio. She was the Scottish Arts Council’s Virtual Writing Fellow for Dumfries and Galloway from 2005–2008 and has taught playwriting in schools as part of the Traverse’s Class Act project. She teaches creative writing as an Associate Lecturer at Open University. Jules was involved in the set up and guided the playwrights’ workshop in Borders that inspired Border Pub Theatre group and the DunsPlayFest

Treading the Borders Theatre Company

The Play by Anita John "First Steps" was developed as part of the Brief Encounters mentoring programme with Treading the Borders Theatre Company, whose support is gratefully acknowledged. Also the writing workshop “The Writers’ Inner Voice”.


Award-winning Playwright Rona Munro

Rona Munro started writing professionally in 1981 and has since written extensively for film, television, stage and radio. Her most recent credits include The James Plays, a trilogy of plays for the National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre UK and Edinburgh International Festival, and Scuttlersfor the Royal Exchange Manchester. Earlier credits include Iron(Traverse Theatre and Royal Court London), Bold Girls(7:84 and Hampstead Theatre) and The Maiden Stone(Hampstead Theatre. She written for Doctor Who, Casualty and further television work included Bumping the Odds and Rehab. Her film credits include Ladybird Ladybird, directed by Ken Loach, and Aimee & Jaguar.

Award-winning writer and acclaimed Scottish playwright Des Dillon

Des Dillon is a poet, short story writer, novelist, dramatist, broadcaster, screen writer, and scriptwriter for TV, stage and radio. His 1995 novel Me and Ma Gal was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award, was included in The 100 Greatest Ever Scottish Books and won the World Book Day ‘We Are What We Read’ poll for the novel that best describes Scotland today. His play, Singin I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim gained critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005 and has toured UK and Ireland since 2007. He was Writer in Residence at Castlemilk until 2000, and currently lives in Galloway with his wife and dogs. 

The Volunteer Hall, Duns

DunsPlayFest would not be possible without the Volunteer Hall, the main venue. Originally an army drill hall, it is the largest public space in Berwickshire, and since 2018 has been owned by A Heart for Duns (AHFD) on behalf of the community following a community buy-out.   AHFD is a local charity of some 350 people which manages the Hall and runs most events there.

A Heart for Duns