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HCF Blog

An Ath Cheum - Year of Young People competition

When I was approached by Peter Fletcher, who runs Black Bay Studio, a new recording studio on Great Bernera, Lewis, who wanted to get involved with the festival, the idea to set up a competition to attract new musicians, seemed like a positive way to go.

We have run new talent competitions in the past, most recently with CalMac, but in this Year of Young People we wanted to do something a bit different ourselves.

Peter was keen to support, so the competition we came up with not only included a spot on the Islands Stage but also a day’s recording studio time with attached accommodation plus £500 expenses towards travel and accommodation to the festival itself.

We saw it as an opportunity to put the spotlight on young talent, in the islands and elsewhere, and also give them an appealing and practical incentive to enter. What better way to do that than a sought-after spot in the main festival arena, performing to thousands of people, and a free recording slot?

The uptake was extremely encouraging; 21 entries in total, covering local and mainland artists, and a real variety of artists, from solo singer/songwriters to full bands.

The standard was incredibly high and provided a very pleasant challenge for our judging panel - Peter Fletcher; Alex Macdonald, from An Lanntair; Michelle Shields, from the HebCelt team; and Michael Cassidy, from the Scottish Music Centre in Glasgow.

After much deliberation, Iona Fyfe, 20, a ballad singer from Aberdeenshire, won through and we are delighted that this critically-acclaimed performer will be joining the festival line-up.

Iona combines contemporary folk music with traditional Doric and Scots songs and, despite her age, already has a number of high-profile appearances under her belt, including performances at The Royal Albert Hall, Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, Aberdeen Music Hall and a sell-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe show.

She has previously won a number of ballad and bothy ballad competitions and was a Scots Singer of the Year nominee at last year’s MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards as well as a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year.

She is currently in her third year studying traditional music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and recently gained a Fellowship from London College of Music in Traditional Scots Voice.

Her debut album, Away From My Window, was premiered at a sold-out Celtic Connections performance this year.

Iona is a very worthy winner of this competition and is just the type of artist the festival and the Year of Young People is seeking to support and encourage. We look forward to welcoming her to Lewis in what will be her first visit to the area.