The programme for the first ever Hebridean Dark Skies Festival launched today (Thursday 4 October).

The first tickets were on sale from midday at the festival website, www.lanntair.com/darkskies

It will take place at An Lanntair and across Lewis from 8-21 February 2019.

Watch the festival trailer (featuring music by Emma Pollock) here.

Festival highlights include:

  • The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott, international science presenters Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest, and Scotland’s astronomer royal John Brown
  • High quality arts programme at An Lanntair including groundbreaking silent film Wunder der Schöpfung with live score by Herschel 36; exclusive Hebridean version of acclaimed multi-media project Whatever Gets You Through The Night, with Emma Pollock, Rachel Sermanni and more, and Andy Cannon’s CATS award-winning children’s show Space Ape.
  • Packed two-week programme of stargazing, talks, family activities, film screenings, workshops and much more, with events at An Lanntair, Gallan Head, and the world famous Calanais standing stones.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is programmed by An Lanntair in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust and Lews Castle College, with support from Outer Hebrides Tourism and Natural Retreats.

The islands have some of the darkest skies in the whole of the UK so in winter any astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula (over 1,500 light years away), the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. 

Other festival highlights include:

  • a festival screening of Hebridean favourite The Rocket Post introduced by the film’s star Shauna Macdonald
  • An evening of dark skies-themed discussion and song with musician Emma Pollock and PHD researcher Natalie Marr
  • an ‘Exploration Day’ of telescope workshops and other family-friendly activities, led by Stornoway Astronomical Society and An Lanntair’s education team. 
  • an indoor planetarium with events over two days, guaranteeing an astronomical experience whatever the weather.
  • A Valentine’s Day screening of classic sci-fi romance Starman, starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.
  • Stargazing events at Gallan Head and Calanais Visitor Centre, site of the world famous Calanais stones
  • An exhibition featuring some of the best dark skies photography from the Hebrides.
  • Three days of events for pre-school children in the An Lanntair auditorium
  • To mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, the festival will close with a screening of First Man, the acclaimed new film starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. The festival will also screen In The Shadow of the Moon, the acclaimed 2007 documentary featuring interviews with every surviving member of the Apollo missions.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, events and marketing co-ordinator for An Lanntair, said: “We’re really excited to be leading on the launch of this ambitious new festival. Lewis and Harris are incredible places to visit all year round, and with this festival we are giving people another compelling reason to travel here during the winter months – as well as putting on a packed programme of events for those of us who live here to enjoy.

"It’s part science festival, part arts festival, part outdoor festival, with things to do for all ages. There are plenty of events about space and astronomy, but we’ll also be exploring the theme of ‘dark skies’ in a broader sense.”

John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, said: “Being a great fan of the Western Isles and a part-time Skye-dweller, I am looking forward enormously to attending as much as possible of the very ambitious and exciting programme of the first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival in 2019.

"I am also honoured to be saying a few words at the opening of the event and to be introducing the Wunder der Schöpfung movie with Herschel 36 gala opening show - a real treat. My visit will also enable me to pursue my close connections with the Gallan Head community and their Cetus Observatory Project, combining excellent dark sky and whale watching.”