From Glas­gow to the stamp­ing grounds

The Oban Times - - LETTERS - ROBERT ROBERT­SON robert.d.robert­son@hot­

IN THE ti­tle track of one of their most pop­u­lar al­bums, Run­rig (who are head­lin­ing the He­bridean Celtic Fes­ti­val in Stornoway this week­end) wrote about re­turn­ing to ‘the stamp­ing ground to where it all be­gan’.

I can vouch for the fact that many High­landers and Is­landers in Glas­gow spend the long win­ter months dream­ing of the ar­rival of the sum­mer and the op­por­tu­nity to head back up the A82 and breathe the fresh air once again.

The com­ple­tion of T in the Park last week­end her­alded the be­gin­ning of a week that will no doubt see an in­crease in the num­bers of Glas­gow Gaels head­ing north­wards as they look for­ward to two fes­ti­vals which, al­though slightly smaller than the event in Strathal­lan, are no less an­tic­i­pated by the High­land di­as­pora down here in Glas­gow ev­ery year.

Al­though many miles away, the He­bridean Celtic Fes­ti­val (He­bcelt) and the Tiree Mu­sic Fes­ti­val go by no means un­no­ticed in Glas­gow – per­haps be­cause they rep­re­sent ex­actly this chance to re­turn home and catch up with old friends and fam­ily. Things are of­ten no dif­fer­ent for the bands who are pre­par­ing this week to play at those fes­ti­vals – many of which, de­spite be­ing proudly High­land in both their her­itage and their mu­sic, are based down here in Glas­gow.

Per­haps I speak too of­ten about Glas­gow-based High­land bands but I just feel that Glas­gow is a fas­ci­nat­ing phe­nom­ena: a city where bands, hav­ing honed their skills and built up a fan-base in their na­tive High­lands and Is­lands to which they re­turn reg­u­larly for dances and ceilidhs, base them­selves and de­velop the High­land mu­si­cal com­mu­nity that has ex­isted down here for decades – since the days of the dances in the High­landers’ In­sti­tute or Go­van Town Hall.

Both the Tiree Mu­sic Fes­ti­val and He­bcelt are per­fect op­por­tu­ni­ties to show­case this back on their na­tive soil, to their home crowds so to speak.

There are many other sim­i­lar events over the course of the sum­mer – Bel­ladrum, Loopallu, Mull Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, and a cou­ple of weeks ago I had the priv­i­lege of play­ing at a crack­ing new fes­ti­val in Lochgoil­head called Gig at the Goil which is show­ing all the signs of blos­som­ing very soon into a sig­nif­i­cant event.

Sim­i­larly, last week­end, I got the chance to play on my own per­sonal stamp­ing ground in the Lochaber Ru­ral Cen­tre – only about a mile from my house. It was a crack­ing night – full of a young gen­er­a­tion en­joy­ing tra­di­tional mu­sic while home for the sum­mer from uni, col­lege or work.

The High­land com­mu­ni­ties that have built up in Scot­land’s cities over the years are ab­so­lutely won­der­ful: but long may it con­tinue that the Gael will al­ways grav­i­tate back, in Run­rig’s words, ‘to where it all be­gan’.

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