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How a folk singer inspired pride in Burns

Art teacher Pamela Baxter found the inspiration to create a new website after going to an Eddi Reader concert. The former Fairground Attraction singer, who released an album of Robert Burns songs last year, described her native corner of Ayrshire as "the Gracelands of Scotland".

Miss Baxter says her pupils at Auchinleck Academy, in East Ayrshire, had hitherto not been particularly inspired by Burns and did not appreciate his worldwide literary significance. However, once presented with the idea of creating their own web pages and talking to the folk singer, there was much enthusiasm.

The project was primarily for S3 Standard grade pupils. The Burns site is part of the school's art and design department's website and is divided into six key areas, giving information and pictures on Mauchline and its strategic Burns locations , a link to the Burns Heritage Trail site (a general tourist site), a fun section with crosswords and word searches, an interview with Eddi Reader and a collection of pupils' thoughts on "Oor Rabbie".

In this last part, pupils also take the chance to display work from their Burns art folios. One page displays a girl's tonal study portrait of the poet and there is a lot of use of photography.

The project kicked off with research, drawings and general art work.

Although art and design, not English, was the key curriculum area of the project, the pupils clearly put a lot of effort into compiling their own views. The general consensus is that they would like to have met Burns and there is a sense of pride that he was a home-grown genius.

The pupils also seem to be proud to have discovered a contemporary home-grown talent. A mention of their interview with Eddi Reader on her own website has given the Auchinleck site wider coverage: it had more than 300 hits in the first two weeks, Miss Baxter says.

Miss Baxter admits to not being particularly computer orientated and says the S3 group included both technically minded and more computer sceptical pupils. There was some use of the professional website design package Dreamweaver, but the pupils were encouraged to create pages in their own style and they all are different.

There are now plans to create links with Ayr College, with former Auchinleck Academy teacher Willie Strachan hoping to generate interest in the college's digital art degree course.


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