The crucial role of private and public sector sponsors to the success of the Hebridean Celtic Festival was recognised at an event last night (Thursday July 21st).
Festival organisers hosted a reception to thank the organisations that backed this year’s event which opened on Wednesday and concludes tomorrow night (Saturday).
As a community event, almost entirely managed and produced by voluntary effort, HebCelt is dependent on outside financial assistance. The support helps the festival attract headline acts, promote local and emerging talent and the Gaelic culture.
HebCelt is also recognised as a key economic and tourism driver for the islands. Last year’s festival generated £2.2 million for the economy and safeguarded more than 40 tourism-related jobs.
Organisations represented at last night’s event included Creative Scotland, which provides support through the Open Project Fund, made up of funds from the National Lottery and the Scottish Government; Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, which, annually extends support through its Arts and Gaelic budgets; and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which has supported HebCelt more or less since its inception and has encouraged its evolution into a key cultural event for tourism and creative industries.
Another long-time supporter is Caledonian MacBrayne, while Lews Castle College UHI is sponsoring the festival’s acoustic stage for the first time. Lewis Wind Power is sponsoring the Islands Stage for the second time and is backing the festival for the third successive year.
Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “Our sponsors’ support is critical to the organisation and running of the festival. Their investment helps us fulfil our creative, cultural and economic aims and assists in raising awareness of the festival and the islands in general.”
The event was introduced by festival organiser and trustee Murdo Maclennnan who thanked all the sponsors for their continued support. "This festival is something we are enormously proud of and we value the support you give us and thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
He pointed out that they were also celebrations linking the festival with Canada which was marking its 150th anniversary of the Canadian confederation and was looking forward to playing a major role in the 'Festival Interceltique de Lorient' in Brittany which has Scotland as its main theme this year. This festival takes place from August 4-13.
Murdo said the 22nd year of the HCF was a milestone and they were looking forward to the next 20 years by appointing new associate directors to widen the festival's base of support. He pointed out that the HCF, despite its scale, had only one full-time employee, the director Caroline Maclennan.
Graham MacCallum. who has been part of the Festival production team for years, is one of the new associate directors, and spoke of his pleasure at continuing to be involved in the festival. "We have all risen through the ranks as volunteers and it is important to touch on the fact that the event is supported hugely by the volunteers." He looked forward to another 20 years of success and supporting the heritage of the Islands.
Murdo Maclennan praised the work of CalMac Ferries - who sponsored the hosts' evening with drinks and food - and the 'miracles' of co-ordination by the local ferry office team, led by Iain Don Maciver. He spoke on behalf of CalMac Ferries and apologised for the fact that senior officials of the company had been unable to make it to the event. "CalMac are very proud to be associated once again with the Hebridean Celtic Festival…we also, on a local level, work very closely with Caroline and her team." He said he had had the good fortune through his career with CalMac to watch the HCF grow from relatively modest beginnings to the international event that it now is.
Speaking for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Alasdair Macleod, who is vice-chair of the CnES Policy and Resources Committee said the HCF played a crucial role in attracting visitors to the Island and also played a vital part in the local life of the Island, making it a more "attractive place to live and work." Last year the festival generated millions in income and supported more than 40 tourism-related jobs.
Singer/songwriter Brian Ó hEadhra, speaking for Creative Scotland, said he was delighted to be at the festival again. He said that Creative Scotland recognised how HCF supported local, Scottish and international artists, and how the festival supported young people and young acts from around Scotland. CS also appreciated the way the festival had events all across the Islands, and its coming role in the festival in Lorient, where it would be representing music from all across the Islands.
Elly Fletcher, the chief executive of An Lanntair arts centre, said that An Lanntair had been a close partner of HCF for many years and worked with the event throughout the year. Their main role was the provision of the Gaelic Stage and there was an entire programme of festival events at the centre, as well as the late-night club events. There was also an arts education tent on the Castle Green with opportunities for children to create their own work.