HebCelt – the internationally acclaimed music festival held annually on the Isle of Lewis – has opened its gates for the first evening of music and fun for 2023.
Things got underway last night with fiddle player Catriona Macdonald’s Wave Waulking at An Lanntair, a musical exploration of her identity as the daughter of a Shetland mother and a Lewis father.
Across the island, Breasclete Hall hosted some of Scotland's finest pipers, including Seonaidh Macintyre, Alana Macinnesand Calum Alex Macmillan, for a celebration of the proud Hebridean piping tradition. The evening was rounded off with a Cèilidh at An Lanntair, with music from the Crisdean MacDonald Band getting everyone into the festival spirit. Tonight, the Jane Hepburn Macmillan Band will keep the party going from 10:30pm.
The festival’s main arena will officially open this afternoon with the Lewis Pipe Band and the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band, who will march from The Porter’s Lodge to the gates to welcome festival-goers to the site. There will be another chance to see them on Saturday afternoon, starting at 1pm from Perceval Square.
Over 18,000 people are expected to gather at the picturesque site across the weekend for three days of music, culture and community, with weekend and Saturday tickets already sold out.
Taking over Lews Castle Green in Stornoway, all three stages will come to life today with performances from folk quartet Fara, beloved Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, dynamic three-piece The Langan Band, local country collective The Tumbling Souls, and Radio 2 playlist regulars Skerryvore, who will bring the night to a spectacular close.
HebCelt Festival Director, Graham MacCallum, said: “We are really looking forward to this year’s festival and are so excited about how it’s all shaping up – we have the very best traditional musicians from Scotland and beyond coming to perform in our beautiful location, as well as a jam-packed programme of fringe events and activities for all ages.
“It’s so rewarding to see everyone coming through the gates with smiles on their faces already, raring to go for a fantastic weekend of live music and fun – it’s a fantastic thing to be a part of in every way.”
Siobhan Anderson, Music Officer at Creative Scotland, said: “Not only does HebCelt give a high-profile platform to artists at all levels in their careers, it’s a key event in the year for both the people of Lewis and wider music fans across the country and beyond. The festival fits well with the National Lottery’s aims to transform communities and enrich lives through arts activity, as well as leading by example on the international stage for other events with their sustainable delivery. It’s brilliant to see the traditional music of the islands showcased to large audiences and the festival’s support for local emerging talent.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events said: “Attracting both visitors and locals each year, the much-loved and internationally renowned HebCelt is back once again with a stellar line-up of talent and a packed programme of activities for all ages to enjoy. Combining global appeal and a strong community identity, the festival consistently celebrates vibrant Gaelic culture and traditional music that is both part of its history and its contemporary life. Having HebCelt in our calendar, further strengthens Scotland’s place as the perfect stage for events, and enables audiences to connect, enjoy and share memorable experiences.”
Over the course of the festival, which runs until Saturday 15th July, audiences will be able to enjoy music from the likes of multi-award-winning power trio Talisk, Leodhsaich superstars Peat and Diesel, and the incredible Sharon Corr, a founding member of one of Ireland’s most successful bands The Corrs.
Also performing on Friday are master musicianN’famady Kouyaté, who hails from Guinea (Conakry), Canada’s high-energy roots quartet Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, and rising star singer-songwriters Abigail Pryde and Lewis McLaughlin. The Islands Stage will feature trad fusion band DLÙ, 2021’s Gaelic Singer of the YearKim Carnie and neo-trad trio Project Smok.
On Saturday, high-octane traditional band Heron Valley, five-piece folk group The Paul McKenna Band, and the critically acclaimed Kinnaris Quintet will take to the Main Stage, while Welsh folk singer Gwilym Bowen Rhys and multi-instrumentalist Malin Lewis will perform on the Acoustic Stage.
The line-up on the Islands Stage includes BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018 Hannah Rarity, Canadian folk masters Inn Echo and award-winning power-folk trio The Trials of Cato.
Iconic Scottish duo The Proclaimers will bring the party to a close on Saturday night, with electronic celtic fusion outfit Niteworks and Orkney stomp sensations The Chair also set to play sensational sets on the festival’s final night.
This year’s festival will also see the return of an exciting fringe programme, bringing activities for all the family to the streets and venues of Stornoway.
Local audiences and fans from across the globe are expected to flock to the event, which generated a £4.2 million boost to the Lewis economy in 2022 and saw early bird tickets sell out in record time.
HebCelt is backed by EventScotland, National Lottery through Creative Scotland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and was crowned Event of the Year for the third time at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards 2022.
HebCelt is taking place on the Castle Green of Lews Castle in Stornoway between 12 – 15 July 2023. Thursday and Friday tickets are still available at www.hebceltfest.com.