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Hebcelt 20 hailed a success by artists and audience

Afro Celt Sound SystemChastity BrownScott McWatt
ShoogleniftyTreacherous OrchestraIdlewild
Manran

The cream of international folk and Celtic music have heaped praise on a Scots island music festival as it celebrated its 20th year by hosting its biggest number of live performances ever.

Award-winning artists who took part in this year's Hebridean Celtic Festival hailed it a huge success after bosses laid on new venues and returned to its roots for the showpiece event.

The performers joined fans in taking to social media to praise HebCelt after organisers managed to overcome storm forecasts which badly affected other weekend events.

This year's line-up included artists who took part in the original HebCelt, others who have found worldwide acclaim after making their debut at the Stornoway-based festival, including fiddler Alasdair White, and other local talent including acclaimed singer/songwriter Iain Morrison.

It demonstrated the strength and depth of the festival that has delivered more than £20million to the economy, raising the island's profile and celebrating the best of the Hebrides.

This year's celebration also helped to showcase local island food, drink and produce, continued its promotion of Gaelic, strengthened its links with tourism operators and businesses and further boosted its green credentials through an innovative Ecocups initiative.

The festival presented its biggest and most diverse programme to date with more than 50 hours of music and arts events staged in the main arena in the grounds of Lews Castle, an Lanntair arts centre in the town centre and other venues in rural areas.

The Caladh Hotel also staged its first series of booked out Late Sessions, compered by Celtic Connections stalwart Findlay Napier, to expand the range of experience on offer to festival-goers across the town.

Audiences included visitors travelling from throughout the UK and Europe as well from the US, Australia, Japan, Canada, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – giving the island another huge economic boost during times of continued austerity across the UK.

Projected figues are expected to put crowd numbers in the region of 14,000 as the festival trust overcame a range of issues outwith their control including unseasonal weather warnings. It maintains HebCelt as the biggest event of its kind in the Outer Hebrides outwith the Royal National Mod.

Bands and artists lined up to thank organisers for laying on what many of them say has been among their best festival experiences to date.

Shooglenifty, who helped kick off the first HebCelt 20 years ago, played both the Island Stage and closed this year's Festival Club at an Lanntair to great acclaim, showcasing their new album The Untied Knot. Taking to Twitter afterwards, they said: Thanks to everyone at HebCelt festival for a great weekend of gigs and looking after us so well! If you haven't been yet, get yer tickets booked for next year! Cheers

The Afro Celt Sound System turned to Facebook to thank the thousands of fans who turned out to watch their spectacular set, and raved: Hugely enjoyable to give the closing performance last night - thanks to all who were there for a great response. We love visiting Stornoway for this!

Festival favourites Idlewild, who returned to the festival after five years away, sailed in on a wave of great reviews for their latest album Everything Ever Written, to play a mobbed main stage. After a terrific response from the crowd, they Tweeted: .@HebCelt Festival was cracking at the weekend - well worth 5 hours of ferry riding!

Salsa Celtica, who have just been nominated for the Songlines 'Cross Cultural Collaboration Award' wrote on their official facebook page: Thank you Hebridean Celtic Festival!!!!! Great to be back on Isle of Lewis after all these years, playing an island festival on the west coast of Scotland is such a pleasure.Yes!!!!!

Treacherous Orchestra, nominated as having this year's Scottish Album of the Year nominated for Grind, said in a Tweet after their packed out main stage: Thanks for having us @HebCelt! You're all great!

International newcomer Chastity Brown, who won a new legion of fans during her stint in Stornoway, Tweeted her happy memories of Lewis: @HebCelt Fest you were epic! Thanks for closing out our tour with your smiling, singing faces.

Award winning Mànran, who will join the legendary Donnie Munro and his band at the world famous Barrowlands in Glasgow on December 5, showed their affection for the festival too, Tweeting: Thank you @HebCelt You've been special as always! X

Singer/songwriter Scott McWatt said he felt humbled after playing Hebcelt, Tweeting: #happybirthday @HebCelt that was the most amazing show I've ever done. The best audience ever! So much love to you! HebCelt20 #humbled

Praising the army of local and visiting volunteers involved in the island's showpiece event, Scott McWatt added: Thank you to all the staff & volunteers @HebCelt for being amazing! The job you do is amazing & appreciated. Hopefully see you next year!

Local newspaper The Stornoway Gazette, strong supporters of HebCelt with positive coverage promoting this year's event, posted a video highlighting the family friendly nature and diversity of this year's line up, saying: Great music, comedy and tricks at HebCelt arena

Hebrides News Today praised the event as classy adding that this year's festival line up …proved that the HebCelt in its 20th year has evolved into a true all-rounder with a little bit of entertainment for all no matter what your age.

Isles FM, who carried dozens of live interviews and music sessions, used facebook to say We're all giddy with the great artists we met over HebCelt weekend at Isles FM.

And in a letter thanking organisers, the BBC described their series of live sessions at Martin's Memorial Hall as having been two excellent, well attended days adding the music was fabulous.

The Elephant Sessions, chosen to be a headline act for the BBC at the Edinburgh Festival next month, told their Facebook followers HebCelt was the best festival they had ever done. They said: Well HebCelt, what can we say? Perhaps the best festival we've ever been to. Such amazing musicians, crowd, people and scenery.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: The 20th festival was a real milestone for us. To have continually staged an event like this in our relatively remote part of the world for two decades, against a backdrop of challenging economic conditions, is a huge achievement.

We have seen HebCelt grow from a small local, festival attracting 1,000 people, into an international festival which attracts over 50 per cent of our audience from off-island, many coming from all parts of the world. We are still very rooted in our community and we are grateful for our loyal local following.

She also paid tribute to the sponsors, supporters and volunteers who contribute time and resources to help sustain HebCelt and to help ensure it can continue to attract quality artists despite its location.

We are extremely appreciative of everyone who contributes to HebCelt. We get significant support from a range of funding bodies, without which we simply would not be able to continue, she said.

The festival is such a positive time of year, all look forward to it and to seeing friends and family travel home for it. The economic benefits are very much justified so we will be working hard in the coming months to build the funding case as early as possible. That way we can continue to stage a diverse and appealing programme for our local and visiting followers and ensure HebCelt continues as a ground-breaking event.

She said organisers were delighted by the response from performers, tourists and locals to this year's event, and in being able to provide a platform for emerging new talent such as CalMac Culture Music winners Bella and the Bear.

We were delighted with our line-up this year. We have never had such positive feedback about the programme and we are proud of the fact that, as well as a range of top International acts, a feature of HebCelt has always been to give fans the opportunity to be amazed by artists they have never seen before and who would otherwise be unable to perform in the Outer Hebrides, she said.

We are now looking forward to our coming of age 21st party next year and welcoming friends old and new back to the island.