From Glasgow to the stamping grounds
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’.