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About Us

DunsPlayFest was established in 2019 as a nine day-long celebration of brand-new theatre and dramatic writing, all staged in the historic Borders town of Duns.

We are now in our 6th incarnation to include a couple of online versions and have expanded with over 60 perfomances, workshops and talks, mostly held at the Hub of the festival, Duns Volunteer Hall-the proudly and rightly named Heart For Duns. We have grown with the dedication of loving volunteers and committed enthusiasts and the support of wonderful funders who believe in the power of theatre as much as we do! 

Featuring more than 60 performances: play premieres, rehearsed readings, workshops, cabaret acts, community events, and a couple of parties, this festival with a buzz, has gathered a reputation for quality theatre, music and wonderful atmosphere. DunsPlayFest has mushroomed in popularity, with local people and visitors alike; we hope to make theatre accessible for all and aim to bring people in from far and wide to our little Borders town with Big Ideas.


Performances take place at Duns Volunteer Hall (transformed for the occasion into a unique performance space with two stages, cafe/bar and lounge area). Events are also held in the grounds of Duns Castle and at other venues around the town.

Our Patron

DunsPlayFest is immensely proud to have as its Patron the titan of the arts in Scotland and throughout Europe - Richard Demarco CBE.

Born in July 1930, Richard might well be the only person to have attended every single Edinburgh Festival since its inception in 1947. Always passionate about all forms of art, especially theatre, painting and sculpture, he draws exquisitely and has been responsible for literally thousands of art happenings in Edinburgh particularly. A co-founder of the Traverse Theatre in 1963 and a one-time teacher, he has worked with astonishing energy over the years and into his 90s supporting and promoting and encouraging young artists.


Always deeply aware of his multiple identity as Scot, Italo-Scot with some Irish blood, and European, he worked tirelessly throughout the Cold War years bringing artists from beyond the Iron Curtain to Edinburgh. Among the artists he has championed are Joseph Beuys, Tadeusz Kantor, and Paul Neagu. In 2013 he received the European Citizen's Medal of Honour.


As our Patron, Richard embodies perfectly our aims and ethos, our longing to celebrate creativity, our passion to encourage the young to participate in the arts, our joy in theatre and our internationalism. Thank you for being our Patron, Richard Demarco!


Our Background


DunsPlayFest was established by local actor, writer and Festival Director, John McEwen, in partnership with local group Duns Players. 

As John explains:

"The idea grew out of a happy marriage between local theatre  group - Duns Players (which has forged a reputation for high-quality productions of classics and new Scottish writing), and Playwrights' Studio Scotland, which in 2017, ran a play-writing workshop in the Borders, led by the award-winning playwright Jules Horne. 


Out of this workshop emerged several plays which Duns Players decided to stage. It gradually became clear that other events could gather around the productions, and so the idea for a festival began to crystallise."


In 2019, with crucial funding from Creative Scotland and Awards for All, plus support from a number of other organisations and individuals, a committee of volunteers created a first live-action DunsPlayFest out of nothing, learning as they went along. 


In 2020, the festival had to be cancelled two months before the opening date because of the pandemic. John said,"An exciting programme of plays and events had been created, and it was with great sadness the festival committee had to advise artists, event organisers, and the public that the festival was off. "


In January 2021 preparations were being made for a hybrid festival until Covid regulations intervened and DunsPlayFest went online. The enforced lockdown restrictions enabled the team to discover that remote communication can also be valuable and creative solutions can be found to solve the  problem of presenting drama online. They were impressed by the various ways in  which plays were presented in digital format and decided not to lose sight of that creativity and inventiveness.  

And moving through 2022 on to 2023, when we doubled the size of the festival and tripled our audiences to NOW...what shall we do together? Do you want to join in?




In 2022 DunsPlayFest became a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO No SC051548) and is now run by a board of local Trustees and a voluntary Steering Committee. 


Festival Trustees

Lucy Vaughan - (Chair) Appointed June 2023

Genny Dixon (Treasurer) - appointed January 2022

Jerry Ponder - (Treasurer) - appointed January 2022

John McEwen - appointed January 2022

Michael Bevan - appointed August 2022

Ramsay Jones - appointed August 2023

Eric  Branse-Instone - appointed 2022

Karen Thomas - appointed January 2024

Jonathan FIndlay - appointed February 2024

Festival Steering Committee

John McEwen (Programme Director and Chair)

Lucy Vaughan (Creative Learning)

Genny Dixon (Treasurer)

Karen Thomas (Designer)

Edward Lispcomb (Designer)

Sara Best (Festival Producer)

Partners include....

A Heart for Duns and Duns Players, with support from Duns Castle and local businesses. ​


Funding Bodies

Creative Scotland Open Project Fund

National Lottery Awards for All

Scottish Borders Council Community Fund

Black Hill Wind Farm Community Fund

Preston & Abbey Community Trust

Lammermuir Community Fund

William Styson Foundation

Connecting Threads

Dr David Summers Charitable Trust

Marchmont Makers Foundation

The Simpson McCreath Trust


Theatre Companies have included

Borders Pub Theatre

Brewery Arts, Kendal

Borders Youth Theatre

Duns & District Amateur Operatic Society

Duns Players


Mon Espoir

Northumberland Theatre Company

Tideline Runners

Treading the Borders



Between 2019-2023
Some of the Contributors to DunsPlayFest have
included the following:


Dougal Affleck

Sarah Bauhan

Berwickshire High School

Jemima Bevan

Heather Cattanach

The Coostie Folk

Chris Drewery

Fiona Drewery

Ben Foreman

Katie Forbes

Marie Foreman

Lynn Gray

Rachel Gray

Hannah Hay

Jools Holland

Derek Huffman

Cameron Mabon

Joanna Mabon

Midnight Ambulance

Ross Milligan

Harris Playfair

Helena Richards

Gerda Stevenson

Katie Watson

Rory McLeod

Rolling Hills

David French


Antic Hay


Sue Bremner

Al James

Mandy Gaze


Iain Fraser

Elsa Le Maitre

Light As A Feather


Karen Anderson

Gilly Becket

Thomas Clark

Dorothy Dickinson

Sylvia Dow

Michael Fenty

Jonathan Findlay

Rob Flynn

Linda Gray

Jules Horne

Jane Houston Green

Campbell Hutcheson

Anita John

Craig Knight

Emily Larner

Peter Lerpiniere

Christian McEwen

John McEwen

Rona Munro

Tom Murray

Bob Noble

Janet O’Kane

Clare Prenton

Kevin Purves

David Sherriff

Robert Sproul-Cran

Gerda Stevenson

Lewis Tweckham

Alex Watson


Esmé Babineaux

Cate Barr

Lukca Best

Olly Bisset

Graham Bryans

Matthew Burgess

Eloner Crawford

Nicola Jo Cully


Genny Dixon

Jonathan Findlay

Ben Foreman

Adam Gaston

Amanda Glasgow

Jane Houston Green

Eric Instone

Barry Jones

Ramsay Jones

Emily Larner

Peter Lerpiniere

Dougal Lee

Andy Lester

Kate Lester

Emma Lindsay

Clare Littlewood

John McEwen

Christopher McKimmie

Billy Mack

John Nichol

Bob Noble

Scott Noble

Jerry Ponder

Greg Powrie

Vivien Reid

Carol Robson

Adrian Schiller

Christine Sclater

Paul Smart

Gerda Stevenson     Holly Thomas

Nigel Warren

Alex Watson

Patrick Watson

Ali Wood

Peter Wood


Eloner Crawford

Michael Fenty

Rob Flynn

Fiona Laird

Peter Lerpiniere

John McEwen

Fiona McKinnon

Tom Murray

Clare Prenton

Vivien Reid

Muriel Romanes

Robert Sproul-Cran

Alex Watson

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