As part of the Music in the Creative Economy project, I held a public panel discussion on the future for music festivals in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as we emerge from lockdown. Three leaders from the biggest events on the music festival calendar discussed how they are planning for their festivals this year in 2021 and how covid is changing their approach, and what it might mean in the coming months and next year’s events.
You can access a recording of the event in full here:
The panel included:
Caroline MacLennan and Graham MacCallum (HebCelt Festival)
Torquil Telfer (Oban Games Piping Convenor)
Torquil Telfer (Piping Steward, Argyllshire Gathering, Oban).
The panel was chaired by Simon McKerrell (Newcastle University) and took place at
1pm on Tuesday the 1st June 2021 via zoom.
Sign up for the event to access the zoom meeting details via eventbrite here.
Craig Corse is Assistant Director of the Orkney Folk Festival, one of Scotland’s longest-running folk events, established in 1982. Nearly four decades in, the festival has grown from an early-season tourism drive in late May, to one of the isles’ hottest tickets, with a global reputation and audience seeing accommodation booked out years in advance.
Orkney’s rich traditional music scene is central to the festival – both its programme, and its renowned welcome. Local artists are programmed alongside leading international acts, and informal pub sessions throughout Stromness are as popular as the festival’s 35+ events – packed into just one four-day weekend.
In 2019, the festival exceeded 6,500 individual concert tickets for the first time, achieving a 94% capacity across the board. Following the free screening of archive footage over the festival weekend in 2020, this year the festival team present ‘Virtually Orkney Folk Festival’ – a ticketed online event, with over 30 brand new and exclusive performances from Orcadian, Scottish and International artists.
As was the case in 1982, the festival’s year-round management remains an entirely voluntary commitment for its 12-strong team.
In his ‘day job’, Craig is the founder and director of CCM Live, one of Scotland’s leading folk-based agencies, touring outstanding artists around the world – including Blazin’ Fiddles, Talisk, Siobhan Miller, RURA and Ímar, as well as select international acts.
Craig is also co-director of Showcase Scotland Expo, Scotland’s export body for folk, roots and acoustic music, and a board member of Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections, Scotland’s largest international music conference.
With a wealth of experience in booking, artist strategy, marketing and programming, Craig has been an invited industry panelist at events throughout the world – from Canada and the USA, to Malaysia, Australia and throughout Europe and the UK.
Torquil Telfer is Piping Steward for The Argyllshire Gathering, one of the oldest Highland Games in existence that celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. He has been involved in organising the Argyllshire Gathering for around forty years which is one of the largest, and most important piping events in the world. Every year, more than 100 elite pipers from all over the world come to the Argyllshire Gathering to compete for prizes and to share in the games day and celebrate traditional culture. The Piping Trust also supports tuition in the primary schools of Argyll and preparations are continuing towards holding the event in person in August 2021.
Caroline MacLennan and Graham MacCallum are Directors of HebCelt Festival in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
The multi-award winning Hebridean Celtic Festival (HebCelt) has been a key feature in the cultural landscape of the Outer Hebrides since 1996. This internationally renowned event has a unique setting in the Scottish Hebridean island of Lewis, the heartland of the Gaelic language and culture. Its welcoming and friendly atmosphere reflects the ethos of the dedicated team of volunteers who have created a festival with global appeal and a strong community identity.
Caroline is Festival Director of HebCelt Festival. Steeped in west coast music, particularly Gaelic, with a healthy smattering of old time country and rock and roll Caroline was raised on a croft on the west side of the Isle of Lewis. Still her home, crofting remains a part of her life but the festival has somewhat taken over for the last 26 years. A founding member of the Hebridean Celtic Festival Trust, which actually came about through change and happenstance, has seen Caroline leading on the festival development since 2000. HebCelt is now an International festival of significant repute and importantly a positive force both in economic and social terms for the Highlands and Islands. However, its importance to its island community goes much deeper with the community invested in making sure it continues and thrives for the benefit of all.
Graham is Depute Festival Director of HebCelt Festival. Having started out initially as part of the vast volunteer cohort who help to make HebCelt the event it is, Graham’s involvement with the festival began in 2008. Over the following 13 years Graham has worked mainly within the live production of the annual event, as stage manager and latterly event production manager as well as sitting on the board of the Hebridean Celtic Festival Trust, the charitable trust that runs the annual event. Recently appointed as Depute Festival Director, Graham now joins the team full time and currently works alongside Festival Director Caroline. Key aspects of this role involve the production of the “Hybrid” event programme due to be held in July ’21 and the continued navigation of the challenges posed by the pandemic as the festival plans for it’s return in 2022.
HebCelt passionately protects and promotes its heritage, including the vibrant Gaelic and traditional music that is both part of its history and its contemporary life. It mixes the best local talent with leading Scottish, UK and world artists and brings together household names and emerging talent to provide a feast of music to appeal to all ages.
The result is a diverse blend of sights and sounds that is true to Celtic traditions but also welcoming to new ideas and influences. HebCelt is a cultural phenomenon for its community, it offers a sense of homecoming to those islanders returning to meet family and friends and it extends a Hebridean hand of friendship to visitors who invariably come back for more. In these pandemic years, the HebCelt team have had to adopt a different approach to presenting content that we all feel represents the ethos of the event and maintains engagement with our loyal global audience.
Seisean HebCelt was produced in July 2020 and the team are currently hoping to stage a hybrid programme (live and digital) during 14-17 July 2021. The Trust hope to be back with HebCelt in a live format in 13-16 July 2022.