Entries are in for 36th Highlands and Islands festival

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Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on Oban this May Bank Holiday for The 36th Highlands and Islands Music and Dance Festival.

Organisers say ‘festival fever’ is starting to simmer again in readiness for the three-day-event from May 3 to May 5.

Monday March 11 saw the closing date for entries from musicians and dancers which included the festival’s first piping champion hopeful from New Zealand.

Due to the huge response to this year’s dancing competitions, there will be a Pre Premier Competition on Saturday March 30 at the Atlantis Leisure Centre.

The festival committee is also planning a fundraising ceilidh for that night.

This year the singing competitions are being extended to welcome Gaelic singers across the age groups to reflect the rise in fluent Gaelic speaking youngsters who might not have had the opportunity to compete and perform before.

The festival is also linking up with Feis Latharna, a traditional music and Gaelic Arts Tuition programme for for young people in Oban and Lorn, so there will be a day of fun and action on Sunday May 5 to encourage new talent to try out new instruments.

Performers have  signed up from all over Scotland. Last year the uptake was ‘great’ across Argyll, in particular from Campbeltown and Inveraray but this year organisers are hoping to have attracted more entries from Fort William and beyond.

‘We were delighted to have our first piping entry from New Zealand!’

Fringe events in venues across the town during the festival and outdoor performers are just some of the added attractions to bring in bumper footfall to the town – last year more than 3,000 people came.

‘Argyll is rich in musical and dance heritage and the festival provides a great outlet for this. Organised by volunteers, the committee has been proud to
attract over 3,000 visitors to the town which is a welcome boost to the local economy and we are grateful to local businesses who support the many fundraising initiatives.

‘Over the years the economic impact has been acknowledged, and the festival would not be possible without the support of many local businesses and lottery funding,’ said festival chairperson Breege Smyth.

She added: ‘This support over the years has enabled young people to have the opportunity to compete to the highest level and then perhaps go on to make solid careers from their musical abilities and passion.

‘Each year I am delighted that our funders and the businesses of Oban share our passion and are generous in support.’