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A range of top Scottish music artistes are to perform at this year’s ‘HebCelt Survival Sessions’, the hybrid live and digital event being staged by the Hebridean Celtic Festival Trust, 14th-17th July 2021.

There will be a series of limited-audience live shows staged at the Stornoway Arts Centre, An Lanntair, featuring a special Between Islands show, Saltfishforty, Colin Macleod, Staran, Sian, Fara, and the Tumbling Souls which will all be live streamed for a global audience.

Pre-filmed digital content will provide a Survival Sessions exclusive special from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, as well as music from the Elephant Sessions, and a range of pre-recorded curated content featuring local artists. Also included will be the 2021 offering of Postcards from Scotland which will feature an exciting range of top Scottish artists.

The Survival Sessions digital event will be bookended by two specially commissioned new works from Lewis native Josie Duncan and Skye trad/electronic fusion band Niteworks.

Caroline Maclennan, HebCelt Festival Director, said: “This is a very strong programme which showcases our culture and Gaelic. It is gender-balanced and offers a variety of shows which we believe will give us a fantastic bounce-back from the pandemic. We are making it as simple as possible to access, both in terms of platforms and ticket prices.

From the last live festival in 2019…Peat and Diesel 

“Topping Wednesday through Friday will be a virtual festival club with Josie Duncan, Norrie Maciver, and Willie Campbell respectively. There will also be Gaelic language, song and story workshops in partnership with Lews Castle College UHI, and a whisky tasting event. This programme delivers a strong essence of the HebCelt experience. We are so grateful to the ticket-buyers, supporters, funders, volunteers and friends of the festival who have made this possible, and continue to help our chances of a full return in 2022. We hope that the Survival Sessions will be greatly enjoyed by all.”

Despite some challenging circumstances over the past year, An Lanntair’s Between Islands music project has achieved some very positive results. Originally intended to be seen as a series of live events, the initiative had to be completely redesigned to take account of lockdown, resulting in the commissioning of new recordings by the contributing musicians. A CD of this work was then released at the end of last year and now the original ambition to bring a performance to the stage is to be realised as part of the 2021 Hebridean Celtic Festival.

The project, which is funded by LEADER, encourages collaboration throughout the Northern and Western Isles, and it is through their continued support that this unique performance has been made possible. 

Project coordinator Alex Macdonald explains: “Originally we intended to bring all the musicians together for last year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival, so we are delighted that it can finally happen. It’s especially gratifying as despite having produced work together during lockdown, it will also be the first time some of those taking part will finally meet up in person. We are therefore extremely grateful to LEADER for their support in enabling this very special gathering to happen, not least as the online format will ensure it can be accessed worldwide.”

Those due to take part are Kris Drever; Willie Campbell; Arthur Nicolson; Kathleen Macinnes; Jane Hepburn Macmillan; Jenny Keldie; Maggie Adamson; Neil Johnstone, and Saltfishforty, with the concert opening the livestreamed HebCelt on the evening of Wednesday 14th July.  

 Musician Willie Campbell said: “We are all excited at the prospect of having the opportunity to finally get together and play the music live. We are also very much looking forward to being the first of the livestreamed events for this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival. Between Islands is all about collaboration, and I think the music project is an excellent example of how that can work, even in the most testing times.”

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HebCelt is supported by Creative Scotland, EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and other public and private sector supporters.

Niteworks live in a photograph from 2019

Creative Scotland’s Siobhan Anderson said: “Community based with a firmly established international following, the much loved and revered Hebcelt opens up access to and enjoyment of the very best of Scotland’s Gaelic and traditional music. From family concerts to gigs featuring some of the country’s leading acts, local as well as up-and-coming talent, the festival’s hybrid programme will bring welcome connection between our talented artists and international audiences, leaving no one in any doubt about Scotland’s flourishing musical tradition.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “Events are an important part of our communities and EventScotland is delighted to be supporting HebCelt’s Survival Sessions through Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund. The fund was specifically designed to support organisers to respond and adapt to the effects of the pandemic by trying new ideas. By embracing the hybrid format, trad music fans both in Scotland and around the world will be able to enjoy the very best of Scottish music across the festival’s 4-day programme.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “The Hebridean Celtic Festival is a major success story for the Western Isles, reaching out to audiences, local, national and worldwide. The Comhairle is delighted to support this year’s HebCelt programme and it is great to see the festival return, even if it is in limited form. We wish everyone involved the very best and look forward to a return to the full programme in 2022.”

(References to the Between the Islands project have been added since this article was first posted)