Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to the most common questions we get asked in the festival office. Please check for an answer to any question you might have here before phoning or emailing us, as the closer it gets to the festival the longer it will take us to reply. Should your answer not feature here, get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer.
· How big is the festival?
The festival runs for four days, Thursday to Sunday, and in 2009 we hosted around thirty events featuring something for everyone – concerts, ceilidhs, sessions, workshops and talks. Within these we aim to cater for all tastes - from the acoustic song clubs for the puritan to the more energetic, contemporary dance gigs for those who like to jump around to the music, and most things in between.
Please note that our festival does not allow audiences to see every event. The festival operates lots of small gigs (many running simultaneously), rather than one large one per night.
· Where is the festival based?
The Orkney Folk Festival is centered in Stromness, Orkney’s second largest town. Some events take place in Kirkwall, however if you’re looking to be in the heart of the festival over the weekend Stromness is definitely the place to be. Events also take place in some mainland parishes, as well as one or two of the smaller islands. Check out our programme page for further information on this year’s locations.
· Where are the main festival venues?
The three venues that we make the most use of are the Stromness Town Hall, the Stromness Academy Lecture Theatre and the Stromness Hotel’s function room. These three aside, most events take place in local community centres/village halls.
· Do you have a late-night festival club?
Yes and no. Our festival club is effectively a smaller concert, which only kicks off at 10.30pm in the evening – whether this is late or not is up to you! Due to local licensing laws all of our events finish at 1am, though. Anything that happens after this time is operated under the terms of a residents license for those staying in the Stromness Hotel (primarily our visiting artistes), and so is private, and is entirely at the discretion of the Hotel management and staff.
· Can I take photographs during, or film, concerts and events?
Flash photography and filming, or any other form that could be deemed distracting to those on stage (camera motors, tiny ‘on’ lights etc), is strictly prohibited. If you’re unsure, that probably means no.
· What is the disability access at the festival venues?
Most, if not all, of our venues are disability friendly, however not all areas of an auditorium necessarily are. If you require such access, please specify at the time of booking and we will ensure that we can accommodate you.
· Can I buy a whole-weekend ticket?
No. As you will see from the programme, it is not possible to attend every event, especially in the evenings, as there are often three or four on the go at the one time. For this reason it is not possible for us to issue you with such a ticket.
· Can I buy a day ticket that will allow me to see all or any event on that day?
No. For the same reasons as above, it is not possible for us to issue these types of tickets. You must purchase a ticket for each gig that you want to attend.
· How can I get a refund / what do I do if I want to return a ticket?
All tickets are sold on a non-refundable basis. Sorry, but with the volume of activity over, and approaching, the festival, our box office volunteers simply do not have the time to issue refunds. We may be able to re-sell your ticket on the door of an event on your behalf, although we obviously cannot guarantee that we will be able to sell it on, and therefore if you will get any money back. Also, any returns will only be re-sold if the event has completely sold out.
· What do I do if I lose my ticket?
We will very rarely re-issue any lost tickets. Please contact the box office for further information, should you misplace your tickets.
· I have not received my tickets yet, what should I do?
If we receive your order after mid-May, they will be held in the box office to avoid any getting delayed in the post. If you are unable to collect them from the box office before your first event, they will all be taken to the door of that event for you to collect.
· Are there any concessions or discounts for Orkney residents?
No. After paying to get to, and stay in, Orkney, we hardly think it’s fair to charge visitors a higher price for their tickets.
· Are there any concessions or discounts for the disabled?
No, unless the disabled person is registered as unemployed, or is a senior citizen or student.
· Are there concessions for students?
Registered students are eligible for concessionary tickets on the production of a valid (and in-date!) student card.
· Does my child qualify for free entrance?
In most cases, no. If he or she does not occupy an extra seat, then yes, however we would not recommend this as concerts can often run to two or three hours in length. If your child can sit for that long without being a disturbance to others, then the chances are that they are old enough to have their own seat.
· Is there a limit to the number of tickets I can buy?
No, you are free to buy as many as you want, but bear in mind that we will not issue any refunds should you buy too many.
· How much are the tickets, and when do they go on sale?
All information on tickets can be found within the tickets section of this website. Tickets generally range in price from £6 - £15, and will go on sale to patrons mid-April, and to the general public around three weeks prior to the festival.
· Where can I buy my tickets?
Tickets can be purchased online (incurring an admin fee of £2.50); by post using the order form on the back of the programme; by telephone on (01856) 851331 or, once the box office opens, (01856) 851635.
· Can I pay online? Using PayPal?
Yes, our site’s payment server is fully secure, and so we encourage you to buy your tickets online. We do not use PayPal as this incurs extra costs to us, which we would then have to pass on to you.
· If I wait until May will I still be in time to buy tickets?
Yes, there will be tickets left but if you wish to take advantage of early booking, you can become a patron for £20
· Which events are likely to sell out quick?
The Opening Concert, Farewell Concerts and country ceilidhs are usually the first to sell-out, however tickets are noticeably going faster for most things year on year.
· What are the benefits of becoming a patron? How can I become a patron?
Festival patrons benefit from 30% discounted travel on Northlink Ferries in the period surrounding the festival, as well as 10% off festival merchandise (NOT including artiste’s CDs or other products). Patrons also gain early access to booking (usually two weeks to ten days ahead of general opening).
Unlike some festivals, however, patrons do NOT gain automatic entry to any of the Clubs – Festival, Song or Academy. These are ticketed events like any other over the weekend. Furthermore, the Festival Club in the Stromness Hotel finishes at 1am. Anything that happens after this time takes place under the terms of a residents’ license, and is therefore private and at the discretion of the Stromness Hotel’s management and staff.
· What accommodation is available and where?
Accommodation in Orkney over the festival is tight, particularly in Stromness, which usually sells-out accommodation-wise months in advance. We advise booking as soon as you know that you’re coming. Orkney has a wide range of accommodation available to suit all tastes and budgets – for more information go to www.visitorkney.com
· Is there a festival campsite?
There is not a festival campsite, however there is a very well equipped one within walking distance of Stromness town centre, owned and operated by Orkney Islands Council. Whilst most of the occupants over festival weekend will be festival attendees, we have no authority over it whatsoever, and so cannot take bookings for it. For more information go to www.visitorkney.com, or phone Orkney Islands Council to book, on (01856) 873535.
· How do I find out about public transport within Orkney? What transport is available as I won't have a car?
We do not provide transport between venues, however artistes will be transported to country venues by bus or mini bus in the afternoon of an evening’s gig, and, if there is space left, ticket holders will be permitted to travel free of charge (to and from Stromness). Obviously a whole hall’s worth of passengers cannot use this service, so it is essential that you check with the Box Office for more details. However, busses usually leave at around 2 or 3pm to allow for sound-checks and only return at around midnight - there is no return trip between checks and the evening’s performance. As audiences are not permitted access to venues during sound checks this will mean a long day waiting.
· Is there a free festival bus?
Only the ones taking artistes, as explained above.
· Can I book a reliable taxi?
There are two Stromness-based taxi companies available around the clock during the festival; Brass' Taxis can be phoned on (01856) 850750, and Stromness Taxis and Self Drive are at (01856) 852852. If you are staying in Kirkwall and require a taxi back from any country venue, or even Stromness as the town’s own taxis can get very busy over the festival weekend, Craigie’s Taxis are on (01856) 878787, whilst Bob’s Taxis is (01856) 876543.
· How do I get to Orkney?
There are three ferry companies that operate from mainland Scotland to Orkney – Northlink Ferries from Scrabster direct into Stromness, and from Aberdeen to Kirkwall; Pentland Ferries from Gill's Bay to St. Margaret’s Hope; and the John O’Groats Ferry (no vehicles, passengers only), from John O’Groats to Burwick, in South Ronaldsay.
FlyBe/Loganair also operates regular (at least one per day) flights to Kirkwall from Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Shetland.
If you are relying entirely on public transport to get to Orkney, the best option is either of Northlink’s services, or to fly. Citylink and Megabus connect from all major Scottish towns and cities to Inverness, from where there is a direct bus service to Scrabster timetabled to meet the ferry connection. Rail connections go as far as Thurso (2 miles from Scrabster), from where you will need to get the bus or a taxi to the ferry.
If you become a patron for just £20, you will get a 30% discount on travel on either of Northlink’s routes (passengers and vehicles only, cabins are exempt from this offer).
· What is the weather like in Orkney in May?
May can be the most glorious month as the daylight hours are very long (darkness only falls around 11pm), but, like anywhere else, if we are unlucky it can be horrid! As a rule the Folk Festival is lucky enough to enjoy good weather!
· What food and drink is available in Stromness? After 10pm?
Stromness has three hotels, and a number of cafés, restaurants and takeaways, where food is available. There is also a supermarket within walking distance, as well as a couple of grocery stores in the town centre
Fast food vans usually set up camp at the pier head for those with the late-night festival munchies.
· What food and drink is available at event venues?
If the event is a ceilidh, you can expect to get a supper of tea and sandwiches, perhaps oatcakes and cheese, as well as a selection of cakes and biscuits. These events are normally also licensed.
There is a small bar in the Stromness and Royal Hotel function rooms, and so drink is also in plentiful supply here. Rolls and crisps etc are usually available as well.
The Stromness Town Hall has no catering or bar – please take your own supplies if you so desire.
Late-night events in the Stromness Academy (Academy Clubs) are licensed, and takeaway vans usually pitch-up outside for closing time. Events earlier in the day do not have such provisions, so, again, feel free to take your own snacks to these events.
· Where can I play in a session?
There are a number of sessions organised to take place in the pubs around Stromness. Details of these will be posted in the individual pubs throughout the weekend, as well as on the festival’s notice board outside the Town House. Please take part in these informal tunes – it’s what they’re for! Artistes will normally have other commitments soon after their session slots, though, so although they may have to leave, feel free to carry the tunes on for as long as you wish.
Stromness has a fantastic atmosphere over the festival weekend, and Orkney’s licensing laws permit the consumption of alcohol outdoors…therefore if the weather permits, sessions often occur at random outside the Flattie Bar (Stromness Hotel), or Ferry Inn.
· I am a musician and will be in Orkney for the festival, is there any way that I can perform at any of the events?
Other than the Song Clubs, all of the festival’s ticketed events will only feature programme-billed artistes. At the Song Club the stage will be offered to floor singers, however this is the only such event at our festival.
We do, however, operate an Open Stage competition for musicians and singers on the Saturday afternoon. Due to a tight schedule, however, entry is not guaranteed and must be applied for before the event itself. More information on this will be posted around March/April.
· I make and sell musical instruments, is there a place I could set up a sales stall?
For a number of years now we have had an exhibition/sale area for local instrument makers, latterly in the Pier Arts Centre, in the heart of Stromness. If you enquire with the festival’s main office we will be able to advise you further.
· I would like to be part of the festival - can I apply to be a steward?
Thank you for the offer, however to keep everything above board and comply with licensing laws (and ease the late-night pressure on the festival committee!), we employe professionally trained and certified door and security staff.
· Where can I get medical help if I need it?
Stromness’ health centre is on John Street, at the north end of the town. In the case of an emergency, Balfour Hospital is in Kirkwall, situated on New Scapa Road.
· Is there a way I can leave feedback on my experiences at the festival?
We are currently looking at the best way for folk to leave us feedback, and hope to have something in place before the next festival. In the mean time you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, where you are more than welcome to let us know what you think about anything festival.