The true love story of the Mother of Japanese Whisky is at the heart of a Scottish festival.
Inspiration for this year’s Kirkintilloch Canal Festival is being drawn from an enduring love story – stretching from Scotland to the Far East.
Rita Cowan’s fateful meeting with Japanese student Masataka Taketsuru took place at her home in Kirkintilloch almost exactly 100 years ago. The spirited pair fell in love in 1919, married in 1920 and then crossed the globe to forge Nikka Whisky, one of Japan’s most successful and best-known whisky companies.
Rita – a former Lenzie Academy pupil, who became known as the Mother of Japanese Whisky – remains a legend in her adopted homeland. The Strathkelvin area – which includes Kirkintilloch – is twinned with Yoichi in northern Japan, where Nikka’s first distillery was created.
Kirkintilloch Canal Festival – which is organised every year by the Council and a range of partners, including East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture (EDLC) Trust – will offer up a range of entertainment celebrating the centenary of their meeting, their story and Japanese culture, including:
Rita and Masataka exhibition – Kirkintilloch Town Hall from 20 August to 3 October (free, drop-in). First staged last year, the exhibition celebrates the life and times of Rita and Masataka. Artist Elspeth Lamb worked with participants from East Dunbartonshire Women’s Aid and senior pupils at Kirkintilloch High to create amazing artworks.
Ceramics: Give It A Try Raku – 30 August at the Barony Chambers (free, booking required).
Bookbug in Japan – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free, booking advised). Enjoy songs, rhymes, tickles and stories in a special Bookbug session
Origami Made Easy workshop, by Mari Itoh of Mariko Design Creations – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free)
Puppet-Making – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free, booking advised). Create your own puppet using Japanese Noh characters (one of the oldest types of theatre in the world) and write your own short sketch
Manga Workshop – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free drop-in event). Chance to create your own manga comic strip and story
Stepps Songsters present ‘Songsters Sing Japan’ – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free)
Martial Arts Demonstrations from Zanshin Kai Karate Club – including kobubo and karate – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free)
Japanese Song and Dance – 31 August at William Patrick Library (free). An afternoon of Japanese culture, including a performance of shamisen music by Hiromi Nakano, and traditional Japanese folk songs and dance, performed by Yoshie Campbell (free).
For more information on the events and booking details, call 0141 777 3143 or visit www.edlc.co.uk
In addition, the 2019 Spirit of Alba Gin & Whisky Festival – being held in Kirkintilloch Town Hall on Saturday 31 August – will be dedicated to the life, work and legacy of Rita and Masataka. The event is supported by the Regional Food Fund.
Kirkintilloch Canal Festival takes place between Monday 26 August and Sunday 1 September, with another magical mix of aquatic activities and land-based family fun.
Councillor Billy Hendry, convener of Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets, said: ‘This year’s Canal Festival promises to be one of the best yet, with a special focus on the legendary story of Rita Cowan and Masataka Taketsuru – inspired by
the centenary of their meeting.
‘The council and EDLC Trust have worked hard to arrange a variety of events which celebrate the couple and Japanese culture. I hope as many people as possible can go along and get involved.’
Visit www.kirkintillochcanalfestival.org for more details.