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After Dinner Speakers
What do James Nesbitt, Muriel Gray, Sir Alex Ferguson, Fred MacAulay, Dougie Donnelly, Andy Cameron, Sally Magnusson, Jackie Bird, Stephen Jardine, Ruth Wishart, John Beattie, Leslie Riddoch and Alex Salmond have in common? They all agree that they have never heard a better Immortal Memory than those proposed by poet, journalist and university teacher, Donny O’Rourke.
People lucky enough to have heard him, without having heard OF him, believe that as a speaker, Donny has it all. Performing entirely without notes and mixing recitation, anecdotes, jokes and snatches of song with expert scholarly insight, lightly yet learnedly presented, this master communicator customises every address to the needs of that particular audience, venue and occasion. He generally composes a short poem in the style of Burns, specific to the atmosphere of the event in question
As a respected critic, columnist and commentator, Donny O’Rourke has an unrivalled knack of amusingly yet concisely placing the Bard both in his time and in ours. Levity and brevity need not preclude gravitas and eloquence, however, a rarely managed mix this compellingly fluent improviser appears effortlessly to achieve. An experienced broadcaster’s verbal verve. A journalist’s gift for a memorable phrase. A poet’s deeply felt empathy and imagination. A comedian’s timing. These gifts Donny O’Rourke has in abundance. What the former Head of Arts and Documentaries at STV and BBC Executive Producer doesn’t have, is ‘name recognition’. But amongst the discerningly hard to please who know their Burns and know their speeches, no one has a higher reputation.
For the last seven years, Donny has been a Teaching Fellow in the School of Education at Glasgow University, dividing his energies between Creative Writing and Film. The holder of several Visiting Professorships, Fellowships, Bursaries, Stipends and Awards, Donny edited and introduced an acclaimed scholarly edition of Robert Burns’ letters to ‘Clarinda’ and has given papers on the poet to various international Burns conferences. Commissions for poems about Burns have come from BBC Radio and television’s Newsnight. Studs Terkel invited Donny to talk and sing about Robert Burns on his revered Chicago Radio programme. A graduate of the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge, Donny O’Rourke has taught at both and at Yale, Glasgow School of Art and other elite institutions and is in demand as a ‘creativity consultant for executives and business leaders whilst, in the spirit of Burns, continuing to find time to work with prisoners, recovering addicts, residents of care homes, community groups and the unemployed.
A successful, high profile and high prestige Burns Supper needs celebrity speakers and Donny has worked with some of the best. They all acknowledge that the events whose top tables they shared, gained too from having the Immortal Memory delivered by an authority whose credentials consisted in knowing rather than being known.