Skye festival kicks off with family ceilidh

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The 2018 Fèis an Eilein, The Skye Festival, kicked off on Tuesday (July 3) with a good, old-fashioned family cèilidh dance.

The opening event brought together an informal concert with various guests, young and old, for a family orientated night of song, dance and music.

Taking place between 3 July and 28 August, at venues around the Isle of Skye, the Skye Festival is a celebration of world-class performing arts and unique island culture.

Scotland’s trad giants, the nation’s premiere string orchestra, sensational world music, critically-acclaimed drama, a trio of popular crime writers, film nights, house concerts and more than a few cèilidh dances are just some of the many highlights of this year’s festival.

Organised by Sleat-based performing arts promotion charity, SEALL (Skye Events for All), the festival’s main venues are situated in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college in the south of Skye, and this year takes live events to more stages across Skye and Lochalsh.

With its roots firmly planted in Scottish traditional music, the 2018 festival includes performances by the Adam Sutherland Band, the Alastair McCulloch Trio, Charlie McKerron, Mary Ann Kennedy, Fergie Macdonald, Kaela Rowan, the Routes Quartet and Saltfish Forty.

From the rest of the world, Euro-Canadian storyteller and fiddle player Anne Lederman will present her history of the Canadian prairies in Spirit of the Narrows; Margaret Bennett and Skip Gorman team up for an evening of music and song of crofters and cowboys; while master of the Galician gaita, Anxo Lorenzo, brings his stunning, high octane performance to island audiences.

Alasdair Fraser returns to Skye for another of his hugely popular Mammoth Fiddle Nights: a spectacle of more than 130 fiddles and cellos playing together under his masterful lead and The Scottish Ensemble will give workshops and concerts in Sleat and Plockton at the end of August. In an unusual vocal dawn performance by Atlas Arts, French-Norwegian poet Caroline Bergvall welcomes in the sunrise from a roof terrace overlooking the Sound of Sleat in Ragadawn (Isle of Skye, 57.5ºN).

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra makes its annual appearance at the festival, this year with Manchester beatbox sensation Jason Singh, and Falkirk writer Alan Bissett introduces his hilarious Moira Bell in The Moira Monologues.

A crime at the castle will be under investigation when a trio of award-winning Scottish crime writers – Michael J Malone, Caro Ramsay and Douglas Skelton – descend on the ancestral home of Clan Donald, Armadale Castle, to give workshops and talks on their craft.

SEALL creative director, Duncan MacInnes, said ahead of the festival: ‘This year we celebrate 27 years since the festival was started and we are very much looking forward to welcoming guest artists and audiences to our live events taking place across two summer months.

‘Most of these performances take place in halls and spaces in and around Sleat and we tend to make good use of the venues at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig as this is where our office is situated.

‘As a family-friendly festival, we kick off on a high note with a lively ceilidh night of music, song and dance in TDC main hall. Hector MacInnes, guitar, and Malin Lewis, pipes and fiddle, will open with some tunes and they will be supported by some of our young home-grown talent.

‘The cèilidh theme continues on the following Tuesday, 10 July, when King of the Cèlidh Fergie Macdonald brings his friends to TDC main hall for a lively evening of music and good craic.

On Wednesday 11 July, we have a chance to meet Falkirk’s hilarious Moira Bell when author and performer Alan Bissett presents his award-winning Moira Monologues and, on 13 July, Inner Sound return to the festival with a popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance.

‘Please have a look through our programme of over 30 live events. There is something for everyone at this year’s Fèis and we look forward to welcoming you all.’

The Skye Festival is committed to showcasing the ‘sland’s home-grown talent. To this end, young artists are encouraged to take part in the festival. Local performers feature highly within the programme and this year Skye and Lochalsh choral group Inner Sound will present The Pirates of Penzance; Maighread Stewart and Ingrid Henderson will give a concert of clarsach and Gaelic song; and Skye musicians Malin Lewis (pipes and fiddle) and Hector MacInnes (guitar) are just two of the Skye artists performing opening sets throughout the course of the festival.

A lively festival fringe, run by members of the Sleat community, includes charity cafés, exhibitions, art galleries, house concerts, Gaelic quizzes, Gaelic lessons for visitors, open music sessions, and more cèilidh dances.

Full colour printed programmes are available from outlets across the island. For tickets and all online information visit