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27 March, 2014

Bringing John Muir home

John Muir Festival opens with spectacular launch of The Kelpies

Revered in America, pioneering environmentalist John Muir is less well known in his homeland of Scotland. But as a new national pathway, the John Muir Way, opens in his honour, the John Muir Festival is bringing John Muir home.

The Festival kicks off on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 April with ‘Home – the international launch of The Kelpies’, a spectacular family event at Scotland’s newest cultural landmark, Andy Scott’s colossal 30 metre high horses heads’ sculptures.

The audience is invited to take a magical, night-time walk through Helix Park, Falkirk and journey past a variety of illuminated artworks on the theme of Scotland as ‘Home’ before making their way to monumental sculptures The Kelpies for a thrilling light, flame and pulsating sound performance.

The recurring show by Groupe F – the renowned pyrotechnic company who famously lit up the Eiffel Tower at the millennium – promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Tickets are £8 and £5 in advance from and £10 and £5 on the door.

Caroline Packman, Director of Homecoming Scotland said: ‘The Home event at The Kelpies promises to be a spectacular and memorable opening to an exciting John Muir Festival programme, which is a key part of this year’s Homecoming Scotland celebrations. The Groupe F show at The Kelpies will be an unmissable experience, and will be a fitting tribute to the brilliant and iconic John Muir.’

First Minister Alex Salmond officially opens the John Muir Way in Muir’s hometown of Dunbar on 21 April where ramblers, runners and cyclists will be invited to carry Muir-themed flags along the first section of the coast to coast pathway. The event, supported by East Lothian Council, includes celebratory art, music, performance and food stalls, is open and free to all.

Over the following four days, 22 - 25 April, communities en route can participate directly in the Festival by carrying bespoke flags along the new pathway. At selected hotspots at North Berwick, Cockenzie, Edinburgh Quay, Blackness Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Callendar House, Kirkintilloch, Strathblane, Croftamie, Balloch Castle, Helensburgh and Loch Lomond Shores, a variety of artworks will be staged: a gang of bearded John Muir lookalikes will provide fun photo opportunities as well as thought-provoking quotes from Muir’s writings. A camera obscura will provide a new perspective on the surrounding landscape. There will be seed bombing with Scottish wild flowers. And in a quieter, more reflective tribute, an American and a Scots poet will walk the length of the John Muir Way at their own unhurried pace, planting seeds and reciting poetry along the way.

Finally, on the afternoon of 26 April, the Festival and flags will reach the end of the John Muir Way in Helensburgh on the same Clyde coast where 11 year old Muir and his family set sail for a new life in America. Appropriately – for a founding father of the US National Parks – Scotland’s national park at Loch Lomond will be the venue the same evening for music, art, performance and a firework finale.

The new John Muir Way, the concept of the Central Scotland Green Network Partnership Board, is designed to give people in the central belt the opportunity to engage with nature and gain a better understanding of Muir the man and his legacy.

Produced by UZ Arts, The John Muir Festival is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Homecoming Scotland and Creative Scotland. Home is also supported by Big Lottery Fund, Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals and Falkirk Community Trust.

Full programme details and tickets:

ENDS 27 March 2014

Further information:

John Muir Festival
Martin Shannon
UZ Arts Communications Manager
Tel: 0141 559 4981

The Kelpies
Charlie Mann
3X1 Public Relations
Tel: 0141 221 0707

John Muir Way
Calum Macfarlane
Communications Manager – Media & PR
Scottish Natural Heritage
Tel. 01463 725020

Notes to editor:

The Helix - The Helix project is transforming 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant new parkland with visitor attraction. The Helix is also boosting the area’s path connections with the creation of over 27 kilometres of pathways. These will link into 400km of wider central Scotland path networks including Sustrans routes, the new John Muir Trail and the Bespoke Mountain Bike Trails, which are the first of their kind in Falkirk.

Another key Helix development is the installation of an enhanced canal hub with a visitor’s centre as part of a new canal link into the Forth & Clyde Canal. The one-kilometre extension will return the canal back to its birthplace in Grangemouth some 250 years after it was built, and is the final piece in the Millennium Link project.

The Helix is being driven by a partnership of Falkirk Council, Scottish Canals and Central Scotland Forest Trust. The project has been awarded £25 million by the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks programme:

Homecoming Scotland 2014 is a Scottish Government initiative managed by EventScotland, which is a part of VisitScotland. Homecoming Scotland 2014 will enable the tourism and events industries to further demonstrate the important role they play in delivering sustainable and sustained growth to Scotland’s economy. Further information:

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at

Creative Scotland is the national organisation that funds and supports the development of Scotland’s arts, screen and creative industries. Creative Scotland has four objectives: to develop and sustain a thriving environment for the arts, screen and creative industries; to support excellence in artistic and creative practice; to improve access to and participation in, arts and creative activity; and to deliver our services efficiently and effectively. In 2013/14 we will distribute over £100m in funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information on Creative Scotland please visit Follow us @creativescots and

UZ Arts
is a registered Scottish Charity supporting artists and producers in creating large scale, innovative work outside conventional venues, across art forms and across borders.

Notes to editors

FREE COLOUR PICTURES are available to accompany this news release. Please contact:
Tony Wemyss on 01463 725022

Contact information

SNH Media

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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