Festival of Small Halls

It’s the end of November, the nights are fair drawing in and what better way to spend these long nights than playing music on Skye for ten days!

I was thrilled to bits to be asked to perform at the first ever Festival of Small Halls on Skye. Also on the bill was, Duncan Chisolm, Jarlath Henderson, Donald Shaw, Mike Vass and many other wonderful musicians.

After getting over the initial excitement at the idea of touring Skye,  I did worry, ‘Will there be enough people at that time of year on Skye to attend all these amazing gigs?’   Every concert was full to the brim and the festival achieved double the numbers they were expecting!  Given the location of each hall, the atmosphere from the warm folk in the room and the incredible hospitality at each gig, this made for the perfect ingredients for a good night. Musicians thrive on this sort of welcome and performances definitely benefit.

A particular highlight for me was playing the bagpipes outside the door at Tarscavaig Village Hall with the most stunning backdrop.  (That is a hall that must have one of the best views in the World!)

Views aside, village halls have always been the heart of many communities and many nights of music over the years have brought people together all over Scotland. There are so many choices for folk on an evening these days and local community events sadly do struggle to get people out.  It was heartening to see that communities are still alive and kicking all over Skye and this festival was testimont to that.

It takes a lot of effort not just from Seall Events who organised the main running of the festival but from the village hall commities and all the other volunteers who helped make this festival happen and happen at such a profesional level.  We get the glory at the gigs as musicians but we are so thankful to those behind the scenes that make the magic happen.  On a dreary November evening people were leaving their local halls with massive smiles on their faces and their hearts full of friendship and music.

Not only were the musicians performing in Village Halls but we also gave workshops in the local primary schools and played informal music sessions in pubs across the island. When I was younger I attended as many sessions as possible and this was such a huge part of learning my craft as a Scottish musician.  It was lovely to see some young up and coming musicians join in with the sessions and it is scary how good they were!

Invited artists and writers, Amanda Thomson and Elizabeth Reeder were a special addition to the line up of the festival.  Amanda’s recent book release, ‘A Scots Dictoinary of Nature’ linked so much to how the land is so ingrained in our culture. They were both photographing and blogging throughout the festival and I’m really excited to see the final work inspired by their time at the festival.

On a personal note from my time at the festival, I can honestly say that it has been a long time since I have felt that inspired and motivated to continue doing what I do and to develop my creative practice. The setting was a given in terms of the spectacular landscape to feed your appetite. Then the combination of people involved made for such a supportive, good craic and friendly atmosphere. There were many conversations about art and music that made you think and think again.  We were looked after and fed so well – thank you to all the team for that! Quality Scottish music is inclusive, inviting and exciting and this festival showcased it at its best which definitley feeds people’s imaginations and it certainly did mine.  I have lots to think about now for 2019!

The Highlands needs winter cheer in November and wow does this festival deliver that!  What a great success story overall and one that will hopefully just be the start of many of these festivals to come. It is so important that events like this continue to be supported.  Keep supporting live music and take part in your community, it will make your life better!




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