Organisers of Lewis music festival Stramash are celebrating after securing a five-year sponsorship deal from Point and Sandwick Trust, which will help with running costs and allow them to expand.
The community wind farm charity has pledged a total of £7,000 to the festival, comprising £3,000 this year – £2,000 towards the purchase of an extension to the marquee and £1,000 for running costs – with a further £1,000 a year for the following four years.
The festival is held every summer on the Castle Green in Stornoway’s Castle Grounds, with the main aim of providing a platform for local musicians and artists to showcase their own material.
Stramash – being held this year on August 9 and 10, with Astrid and Twister confirmed as the headline acts – is always free to enter, to be fully inclusive, and the organisers have been gradually buying all the equipment they need over the years, to become fully sustainable.
The money from Point and Sandwick Trust will allow the organisers – officially Stramash Stornoway Community Group – to increase their capacity this year, with the tent extension.
Paul Matheson, chairman of the Stramash Stornoway Community Group, said it would increase their capacity by 20 per cent, giving them an extra 800 sq ft.
It will create a much-needed backstage area and a marshalling area for musical equipment, which will allow for bigger musical set-ups on stage and faster changeovers between bands.
It will also give the festival a social area where the bands can mingle and network together, as well as creating room for projector screens, to allow for greater use of visuals as part of the show.
Paul said an extension had always been part of the plan, with the organisers originally choosing the main tent – which cost £16,000 – because an extension could be added onto it.
The extension cost £4,500 and he revealed they were stunned to receive the entire grant they had applied for, from Point and Sandwick Trust, describing it as “a complete game changer”.
Point and Sandwick Trust were more than happy to help and support those working for nothing to make the community a better place.
Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust general manager, said: “Stramash, organised entirely by Paul and his dedicated band of volunteers and talented island musicians, is now an important part of the summer event scene in the islands.
“It has remained entirely free for the audience and provides an opportunity for our musicians to perform live in front of a large audience, demonstrating the joy of music and dance at the height of summer on the castle green. It is also important to remember that Stramash have made significant donations to local charities over the years. Long may they rock on!”
Paul stressed that Stramash had always focused on sustainability – buying the equipment as far as possible, to save on future hire charges. However, this meant it was harder to access grants.
“The biggest problem is that people don’t want to fund you when you are investing in equipment for sustainability but will pay for hire. What we’re trying to do is make this fully sustainable at the lowest possible cost.”
The cost of hiring the tent over three or four years would have amounted to its purchase price, he said. Now, though, Stramash was set up. “We don’t have to take anything off anyone. We now have everything.”
That includes their own tents, power distribution, fire safety equipment, sanitation and ground mats, to protect the grass on the Castle Green. All the equipment and facilities are also available for other community groups to use, with the only fee asked being donations towards upkeep.
Through Paul, Stramash also gives hours of free recording and production time throughout the year to local musicians and artists, as well as a repair and maintenance service for audio equipment. They provided 500 hours of free recording time last year.
Free entry is a key feature of Stramash, as is its support to local good causes with money going to a select one or two every year, out of the funds raised on the tea bar and from donations.
Paul said: “We’re keeping it free so that anyone, regardless of their financial status, can come and enjoy a family day out. I think it’s nice that people don’t feel under any financial pressure and there are goody bags for kids under 12.”
This year, Stramash will again be supporting Macaulay College, a community interest company which helps adults with social and learning difficulties.
Stramash supported Macaulay College and Macmillan Cancer Support last year and has given a lot of support in the past to The Leanne Fund.
The Stramash set-up has been acquired steadily over the years, since it started out eight years ago – out of the back of a lorry at Cuddy Point. The stage itself was bought relatively recently. Up till then, performers had been playing on the ground – at the same level as their audience. .
The new £1,000 sponsorship will help with running costs such as fuel costs and insurance and also help with the annual upkeep of equipment.
The big picture, for Stramash, is about providing a “professional environment and a big stage – everything that we think these people deserve for sitting in their bedrooms and writing their songs.”
And with the decline of music venues on the island, they do it “because it is there to be done”.
Sean Harrison, the Stramash secretary and a performer himself, added: “It’s the platform that’s just not there (otherwise). It’s just all about encouraging creativity from the musicians. A lot of the bands love the opportunity to play there.”
Picture above: Supporting local good causes: Chrisetta and Willie Mitchell from The Leanne Fund on stage with local headline act The Broken Ravens and guest headliners The Amorettes in 2016.
Picture top: Room for growth: The tent as it is before the extension. The size of the extension, with funding provided by Point and Sandwick Trust, will add an extra pole.