Faces were lit up in more ways than one

conker and tweed festival ''Giant Night Out at Glentress. Dougie Johnston
conker and tweed festival ''Giant Night Out at Glentress. Dougie Johnston
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It was a dark night in a dark wood …actually, it was twilight when we started our trek through Glentress Forest, conveyed by minibus from the Peel Café to the start of our adventure.

Darkness had fallen by the time of our return, with a quarter moon shining down on us from a clear sky. At our feet, the squelchy path was lit by flickering tea-lights and here and there trees were illuminated more theatrically.

We were under the guidance of a storyteller: in our case, John Nichol. He told us a weird and fantastical tale of how, long long ago, the giants had been the friend of humankind, until the first went to live in villages, then towns, and then cities. The giants were so shy that they hid themselves away in caverns, in dark nooks – and in forests.

He did not fight shy of using long words, and although there were some very small children in our group, their attention never wandered, although one did pipe up: “What does Transmogrify mean?”

En route we encountered all kinds of mystical happenings – even Mother Nature stepped in as a real live owl swooped down in front of us. The final image was one of great emotional beauty as a transmogrified giant swooped away from us in another guise. The only thing missing was a Gruffalo.

The only hired-in element was the forest lighting by Vision Mechanics of Edinburgh, pictured right, and for me that was the weakest part of the production artistically. White lighting, or the addition of only one colour, would have been more atmospheric than the spectrum of hues we encountered.

This is a piece of real Borders creativity, with home-nurtured performers, and giant puppets and props made by volunteers at the Eastgate.

The stunning multicoloured dragonflies came from Peebles Victoria Park Centre. This is community arts at its very best, and Caroline Adam, the Eastgate’s director, has shown a sureness and flair that bodes well for the arts centre.

On my journey, I thought about Anne Younger, who did so much to make the Eastgate come into being, and who died last week. Those of us who labour at the coal-face of underfunded arts in the Borders were fortunate indeed to have her as a champion.

Without Anne, there would have been no Eastgate, no growth of exciting and quirky creativity such as this event.

Not just the people of Peebles, but Borderers generally, are enriched by the legacy of her commitment and capability.

The event was 40 minutes of wonder, for pre-schoolers to pensioners. This weekend sees more magical adventures when the production moves to the Bowhill Woods.

I might even go back with my seven-year-old grandson – if I can get tickets.

Judy Steel