HebCelt takes centre stage at international Celtic music festival

Photo credit: Colin Cameron

UK / FRANCE: Celtic music festival HebCelt will showcase musicians from the Outer Hebrides to an international audience at a French festival this year. The islands’ language, culture and heritage will play a leading role when Scotland is celebrated at the annual Interceltique de Lorient during 10 days of events being held from August 4 – 13.

Scotland is this year’s Country of Focus at the gathering, the largest Celtic festival in Europe, and a team from the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival is organising the opening concert on August 5.

Details of HebCelt’s role were announced earlier this week at an event in Paris attended by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop.

It provides a huge opportunity to promote the annual festival, which is being held this year from July 19 – 22 in the island of Lewis, and boost cultural tourism to the Hebrides.

More than 900,000 visitors and spectators attend the Lorient festival, when Brittany meets other Celtic nations and regions including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Galicia, Asturias, USA, Canada and Australia, generating about £30 million for the economy.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “It is a fantastic honour for HebCelt to be given such a prominent role in this prestigious international festival.

“The Lorient event is a huge celebration of Celtic music and culture and we are really excited to be part of it and to be able to share our own traditions and heritage on this stage.”

HebCelt was invited to take part and curate the opening Country of Focus show by Showcase Scotland Expo, which promotes Scottish-based artists in folk, Gaelic, traditional, world and acoustic music to overseas music events. The show has a strong Gaelic focus and will feature a number of artists taking part in this year’s HebCelt.

Lisa Whytock, director of Active Events which produces and manages Showcase Scotland Expo, said: “As part of our focus we are really keen to showcase the best in Scotland and to highlight the brilliance of not only our artists, but our festivals.

“HebCelt is a festival that celebrates Gaelic language and culture, the traditions of Scottish music and heritage, as well as contemporary music and the 21st century.

“It is a very real celebration of modern Scotland and the mix of music that is listened to today. Held in one of the most beautiful islands in the world, we were keen to highlight its scale and position in the Scottish festival calendar.”

The curtain-raising show will include an excerpt from ‘Hebrides – Islands on the Edge’, a documentary of the Hebrides, the music for which was composed by Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw. These pieces will be accompanied by the composer himself, together with Patsy Reid, Mike McGoldrick, Sorren Maclean and James Mackenzie.

Some of the leading Hebridean artists in the modern era will come together for ‘Blasta’ (Gaelic for tasty or delicious), a show specially commissioned for this year’s Lorient festival and featuring Gaelic singers Calum Alex Macmillan, Anna Murray, Mischa Macpherson, Ceitlin Smith and Josie Duncan, from the isle of Lewis. Singer songwriter and Celtic harpist Josie Duncan won this year’s BBC 2 Young Folk Award with singing partner Pablo Lafuente.

Also performing during the opening show are the Mishca Macpherson Trio; Tide Lines, a four-piece band who are heavily influenced by the traditional music of the west Highlands and islands; and Elephant Sessions, one of Scotland’s emerging groups.

In addition, HebCelt has its own pavilion at Lorient. With assistance from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), a number of local organisations have come together to promote the Hebrides, including An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway; Acair Books, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year; and Outer Hebrides Tourism, which has put together a competition to help drive traffic to the Hebridean pavilion.

Rachel Mackenzie, area manager for HIE in the Outer Hebrides, said: “We are delighted to support HebFest to showcase at Lorient which is the largest Celtic festival in the world. It provides a prestigious platform for HebCelt and its performing acts and activities to engage with new audiences, performers and visitors on an international stage.”

Ian Fordham, chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism, added: “We are delighted to participate in the HebCelt presence at Lorient, and we are excited to have the opportunity to showcase the fantastic holiday experiences available in the Outer Hebrides to the enormous number of attendees at the festival.

“We are sure that many will seek out a holiday in the Outer Hebrides in future years.”

This year’s HebCelt will be headlined by The Waterboys, Imelda May, Dougie MacLean and Lucy Spraggan. Over four days a series of performances will be held in the main arena in the grounds of Lews Castle, in Stornoway town centre and in communities in Lewis and Harris.