THE history and regeneration of East Ayrshire’s coalfields will be celebrated at one of the biggest events on the calendar at this year’s Cumnock Tryst – now little more than two weeks away.

Ayrshire’s gently undulating land and fields of green seem to spread serenely as far as eyes can see. And yet hidden here and there behind gently sloping hills, large pits of dark break up the landscape like otherworldly, ugly, and vicious gaping mouths.

It seems unthinkable that, not too long ago, these pits were at the heart of the communities that sprouted around them. The 2013 collapse of the open cast coaling industry changed the lives of those that depended on it and left behind an ugly, unsafe, and inaccessible landscape.

Since then, the Coalfields Community Landscape Partnership has initiated a project for the regeneration of the coalfields area from a cultural, physical, social, and historical point of view.

The Cumnock Tryst has been a long-standing champion of community and creativity and believes that every individual has the capacity to create something new, often in innovative and surprising ways.

In this spirit, The Cumnock Tryst will lead the cultural regeneration of the coalfields with a special project titled A Musical Celebration of the Coalfields.

World-leading composer and conductor Sir James MacMillan, who is also founder and artistic director of The Cumnock Tryst, will lead the project and work with ten community groups across Cumnock and Doon Valley to help them create a piece of music reflecting their own response to their landscape, social history, community, people, and place.

The music they compose will be a major highlight of the 2023 edition of the Cumnock Tryst when it will be performed by the internationally renowned BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra alongside musicians from across the area.

Sir James MacMillan, who describes this initiative as a “musical celebration of the coalfields”, has highlighted the mutually beneficial relationship between the festival and the Coalfields Community Landscape Partnership.

Not only they are actively helping the coalfields communities, a dream of Sir James’s since he started to think about a festival for East Ayrshire, but they are also expanding the Tryst’s activities in new and exciting ways.

A first taste of A Musical Celebration of the Coalfields will feature at this year’s edition of The Cumnock Tryst. The performance, which will take place in the morning of Saturday, October 1 at Cumnock Town Hall, will showcase work created by two community groups.

Strings N Things and CAMPS (Cumnock Area Musical Production Society) have been working respectively with Findlay Napier and Ailie Robertson to create their own music and songs, and all the work created will be performed by the groups alongside Merchant City Brass, a septet of brass players from the national orchestras.

A celebration that brings communities and music together, The Cumnock Tryst is an invaluable resource for the town and the East Ayrshire area.

This year’s festival will return with a truly amazing programme from Thursday, September 29 until Sunday, October 2.