This week is one of the busiest but most enjoyable times of the year for Iain Don MacIver.
The sight of thousands of music fans pouring off the CalMac ferry at Stornoway on their way to the Hebridean Celtic Festival - probably after a spontaneous ceilidh on board - is one he has witnessed each year for the last two decades.
Iain has worked at CalMac for 22 years – the last ten as port manager at Stornoway – during which time he has witnessed HebCelt being born, grow up and now reach the point of celebrating its 20th birthday.
The native of Point is enthusiastic about the festival’s development and how it helps transform the host town into a massive carnival for a few days, as well as its ongoing contribution to the economy and tourism industry.
“HebCelt week is our busiest time of the year”, he said. “It creates a real carnival atmosphere in the ferry terminal, in the town and at the festival site. It lifts the spirits of everyone.”
Iain remembers the first festival which attracted around 1,000, mainly local, fans and has seen it become not just a major music event, but also a significant economic driver for the whole islands.
“When it started it was small but still significant. However, I’ve watched it explode into this huge, multi-national event which makes an enormous contribution to the islands.
“One thing that is noticeable is that in the early days the impact was concentrated over the few days of the festival, whereas now many people make a holiday out of it and spend a week or two in the islands.
“The people who came initially were locals or those from close by on the mainland. Now people come from all over the globe to attend the festival and they are staying longer here which is good for everyone.
“The whole place is buzzing when the festival is on. There are people everywhere and they are all in a laid back and relaxed mood. It’s great to see the town like that, and it’s the same on the ferry with impromptu sessions and ceilidhs starting up.
“The enthusiasm is infectious and everyone seems to have a good time. The feedback we get is great. People say that a crossing that takes two and a half hours goes past in a flash and we hear crew members also saying they enjoy these sailings because they are so much fun.”
CalMac is again a major sponsor of the festival, continuing a long association with HebCelt as it marks its 20th anniversary.
Iain added: “I’m proud to work for CalMac and also proud of the fact the company is a leading sponsor of the festival. Long may that continue.”
The 20th HebCelt, will hosts a wide-ranging programme of events in the main festival arena and an Lanntair arts centre as Stornoway, as well as in communities across Lewis and Harris.
Featured acts include Idlewild, Afro Celt Sound System, Treacherous Orchestra, the Karen Matheson Band, Shooglenifty, Chastity Brown, Le Vent du Nord, Raghu Dixit and Salsa Celtica.
Tickets for all events during the festival can be bought here.