Festival Blog

2019/1 – Advance Preparations

It’s the start of festival week, and – as hundreds of musicians and music-lovers prepare to set course for Stromness, from most other points of the compass – the final countdown has begun for your dozen-strong, all-volunteer organising committee. Their last full pre-festival meeting takes place tonight – an occasion matter-of-factly summed up by one member as “usually a mix of exasperation, hilarity and despair” – before they’re all off and running, firmly in top gear, to get this show on the road. The big PA truck arrives off the Aberdeen boat tomorrow night, and then it’s truly all systems go. 

Having bade farewell to their day-jobs for the duration, the committee will then be jointly, severally and actively responsible for four very full festival days and nights, comprising no fewer (and arguably more) than 45 individual events, featuring over 50 acts, across an Orkney-wide scattering of 19 different venues. Just to encourage the odd spare thought as you relish your weekend’s revelry, the range of tasks they’ll be overseeing or directly carrying out includes, but most certainly isn’t limited to, the following lengthy list:

  • Multiple daily pickups/greetings/drop-offs at both airport and...

2018/5- Sunday’s Celebrations

It told its own tale on Sunday, in Stromness, that all of the town’s ATMs had been completely emptied of cash, even after apparently capping withdrawals before they were wholly bled dry. Not that this foiled one enterprising gentleman in the Co-op around 8pm, who was evidently planning a thoroughly exhaustive last hurrah, as he paid separately by card for two packs of sandwiches, requesting the maximum £50 cashback with each purchase. On the small-mercies front, at least he bought something to line his stomach with beforehand – and the empty cash-machines point to Stromness’s businesses, as well as the festival itself, having had a highly successful weekend.

The last hurrah certainly proved suitably riotous at the Town Hall’s Farewell Concert, abetted in no small part by the participating artists’ discovering a cache of daft wigs backstage, which led to several of them appearing as you’ve never seen them before (and may well never again) – and seemingly to Hamish Napier, from Duncan Chisholm’s line-up, channelling a likewise previously unseen hillbilly/redneck alter ego, delivering a drawled stream of ribaldry so outlandishly off-colour as to make even the least maidenly listener blush.


2018/4 – Saturday night in full glory

For bookers and bands alike, there can be efficiencies gained when one musician features in two line-ups – but there can also be pitfalls, as was the case today for one such dual member of Gnoss and Trip, who respectively played this afternoon’s Sunday Supplement, at Stromness Town Hall, and the Sunday Best show in Finstown. Following some last-minute running-order adjustment, after organisers realised they’d scheduled our man to be in both places at once, this has resulted in a decidedly gruelling day’s double duty, starting with an early Town Hall soundcheck, followed by soundcheck and gig at Finstown, then a fast cab back to play the actual Stromness gig – before twin repeat performances for both Farewell Concerts tonight. Which would have been a seriously tough timetable even had he not spent the previous afternoon/evening wholeheartedly embracing the festival, after playing The Gathering: Generations show, taking in a full round of the sessions before heading Academy-wards for The Stomp.

Come this morning at the Town Hall, he was thus experiencing that Sunday feeling in full measure, sitting mostly with head in hands while the sound crew and his colleagues did...

2018/3 – Going the extra mile

Yesterday afternoon’s Orkney Tipple concert at Quoyloo, featuring that inimitable musical chronicler Findlay Napier, wasn’t actually intended as proof that the Folk Festival can organise a knees-up in a brewery, but seemingly some audience members’ levels of merriment – even allowing for Findlay’s frequently side-splitting material – suggested they’d interpreted it as such, and were taking full advantage of the local craft brews on offer. Having contended with their rising volume of ribaldry during the show, however, Findlay was ultimately the winner when one of this bibulous number, spoilt for choice between the various CDs and songbooks on sale, decided he’d just take the lot, departing the premises some £70 lighter.

As you may know, Findlay’s younger brother Hamish is also a highly-regarded musician, who arrived at the festival yesterday as part of fiddler Duncan Chisholm’s band. Given that both now live in Glasgow, this fraternal reunion was hardly a major occasion, but coming to Orkney has given both the chance to reconnect with Gavin Cullen, treasurer and general linchpin of the current Folk Festival Committee – and also a member of the original such board, who founded the event 36...