A huge part of the festival’s enduring appeal is the atmosphere created in Stromness, thanks to the seemingly never-ending pub sessions that pour out of the town’s bars (literally, weather permitting) throughout the weekend.
Whilst we arrange for most visiting artists to lead tunes at some point over the weekend, we must stress that sessions are informal, social gatherings of musicians, and largely organic affairs that quickly take on a life of their own.
Even when an artist might be advertised as a host, in the pubs themselves, or if you spot all members of a group sitting in on a session, it is not their material or sets which ought to be played – so please do not expect these to be additional performances. Joining in is very much encouraged, and it’s not uncommon for a midday session to end at closing time, creating one-off collaborations as well as meetings and exchanges of diverse traditions along the way.
It may even be that a session’s natural momentum is so strong that a band due to sit in and/or take the reins might not even be able to squeeze their way through the throngs already playing. If so, that’s absolutely fine by us: if the tunes are already in full flow, they will (and should) always take precedent.
Even with the best will in the world, true session magic can’t be planned. But that’s also part of the craic. We do our best to make sure that tunes are happening in some form or other, but most importantly we are incredibly fortunate and appreciative of having the town of Stromness providing the ideal backdrop for tunes all day, every day.
We advise just going with the flow. Find a nice table or leaning post, order your drink of choice – we heartily recommend an Orkney Session (the name is no coincidence) – and just soak it all up.