‘Biggest ever’ Highlands and Islands festival enjoys launch
THE 34th Highlands and Islands Festival of Music and Dance launched in the CalMac ferry terminal in Oban on Monday, promising more than 100 competitions from April 28 to May 1.
Organisers say on the website that, ‘2017 is going to be our biggest year yet with new venues, over 1,100 participants, 125 competition classes in 11 disciplines and new fringe events to be announced.’
Organisers hope to attract more than 3,000 visitors to boost the local economy over the May bank holiday, with an estimated economic impact of £ 3 million.
This year more dancers than ever are expected and the choreography is expected to focus on themes of History and Heritage, and ‘Scotland – A spirit of its own’. Dancing is not the only event on the bill, with piano, clarsach, woodwind, brass, fiddle, accordion and piping attracting some of the best musicians around, from as far as the US, Ireland and the central belt.
The festival opens at Oban’s Corran Halls which hosts the Scottish Choreography Challenge as well as the action songs, choirs, ensemble, recorder and singing on Friday April 28, the same day as St John’s Cathedral sees the accordion and fiddle masters.
The next day features the family dance ‘Festival Fling’ in the Argyllshire Gathering Hall, and Highland dancing for the Scottish area finals and pre-premier age groups at Atlantis Leisure, which continues on Sunday April 30 for the premier age groups.
The volunteer committee are keen to grow the feis and workshops, bringing in new blood to learn from some of the best, through workshops and also letting people see and try something new. The festival programme will also entertain visitors with a ceilidh in Skipinnish, and live stages in Stafford Street and Station Square over the four days.
Festival organiser Kathryn Wilkie, an education officer for expressive arts at Argyll and Bute Council, said: ‘Something must be right to reach 34 years. What has been successful? Why do people come to Oban to dance, to play, to sing, to compete, to take part?
‘ Well, this festival has something for all. The more established dance, the fling, the sean triubhas, and then there’s the creativity – the Scottish Choreography Challenge. An eclectic choice in music – classical, show, trad, the ever popular action song, choirs, duets – it goes on.
‘Accordions, pipes, fiddles, pianos, clarsachs, trumpets, recorders, drum pads, the list is very long and many vocal mixes too. And for all ages – you don’t have to be young to take part. Music and dance are good for the soul, at any age.
‘The festival is important: it is a characteristic of our com- munity, as are the people who work hard all year to ensure it happens. Let’s continue to work hard, dance hard and play hard to enable all the community, old and young, performers and audience, to reap the benefits.’
Musicians entertained passengers waiting at Oban’s CalMac ferry terminal on Monday, at the launch.