Beloved Lewis music festival HebCelt brought a welcome £3.6 million boost to the local economy with its 2023 edition, as well as breaking the attendance record set last year.
Taking place between Wednesday 12th and Saturday 15th July 2023, the festival welcomed over 19,500 music lovers to the spectacular Lews Castle Grounds, an increase of more than 8% compared to 2022, while overall attendances at the programme as a whole across the town rose by 6%, according to an in-house report by the Hebridean Celtic Festival Trust.
The report found that 61% of visitors were in the area as a direct result of HebCelt, with 52% coinciding their trip with visits to friends and family. The £3.6 million injection from 2023, brings the total economic impact of the Outer Hebridean festival to £34 million over its 26-year history.
Visitors spent nearly a week – an average of 6.8 days – on Lewis and Harris, demonstrating that while HebCelt was a deciding factor in their visit to the area, they spent time on either side of the event enjoying the local area and all it has to offer.
A total of 70 performances, including 40 in the main arena, nine late night sessions, four at An Lanntair and three family concerts, took place over the course of the week, with loyal fans coming from near and far to make the most of the outstanding celebration of music, Celtic and Gaelic culture on offer.
Out of 265 performers profiled, 34% were based on Lewis and Harris, demonstrating the festival’s commitment to supporting local musicians, and highlighting the wealth of local talent coming from the Outer Hebrides.
A new partnership with Isle of Harris Distillers as the sponsor of the Acoustic Stage, now known as the Isle of Harris Gin Cèilidh Tent, opened up performance slots for local up and coming musicians, making them an integral part of the festival line up.
Following these successes, early bird tickets for the 2024 edition sold out in record time in late July, with the allocation being snapped up in just over three hours by local music lovers and keen festival-goers from as far away as the USA, Canada, Hungary, Germany and Sweden.
HebCelt Chair of the Board, Gayle Findlay, said: "It’s so important to us that HebCelt has a positive impact on local people and businesses, and knowing that the festival has helped bring visitors to Lewis and the Hebrides in general, allowing them to see the beauty of the local area, is really encouraging, as is seeing the unwavering appetite for Celtic music and culture.
“We are constantly blown away by the support and enthusiasm of the HebCelt audience, and to have broken the attendance record once again is just phenomenal. It means so much to us to see the festival grow each year, and to know that it brings such a boost to the local economy is fantastic. We can’t wait to do it all again next year!”