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Islanders who opened their homes to stranded festivalgoers when extreme weather pulled the plug on Tiree’s biggest event of the year, are just ‘phenomenal’.
TMF’s artistic director Daniel Gillespie said the decision to cancel this year’s festival was ‘heartbreaking’ when high winds struck and torrential rain hit, but even before a call for help went online there was a queue of cars outside An Talla community hall, with residents coming to the rescue, ready to give shelter to campers “at the drop of a hat”.
Kirsty and Colin MacDonald were among those who took in “shocked and distressed” campers as the storm took hold, flattening tents.
“It was a scary night. We are used to winds like that here – but usually in winter, not in July. Our hearts went out to all the people who had just a cover of canvas or nylon to shield them.
“We took in two couples from Liverpool, the woman was shivering and shaking. One of the men was a doctor, he told us about the visceral sense of feeling unsafe that he had experienced, not so much about being in a tent in that weather but the terrible fear of being hit by flying objects and debris. It was terrifying for people.
“We are among the very many people who helped. We took four people in, a friend gave 15 people shelter.
“The whole emergency response was amazing. In less than two hours, the festival team had managed to evacuate everyone and get them to safety. It was an incredible effort.”
Mum-of-three Paula Henderson from North Lanarkshire experienced first-hand the kindness of Tiree.
Her family’s tent was wiped out by the winds and all went from bad to worse when, after securing safe accommodation for the night, they were in a car accident which left Paula in need of stitches and her youngsters, all under the age of five, shaken.
Wanting to get home as quickly as possible and having had no luck in trying to change her ferry ticket, Paula turned to festival organisers for help.
She said: “We were feeling quite desperate and needed to get off the island as soon as possible to sort out our car insurance and get the kids home and settled. The TMF team couldn’t have been more helpful and understanding, promptly offering us one of the festival’s reserved spaces on the ferry for the very next day.
“The determination of the event organisers to help everyone in need over the weekend really speaks volumes about the community ethos of the festival. The way the whole island pulled together in such a crisis was truly remarkable.”
Mr Gillespie told The Oban Times: “What we saw in terms of the response from the Tiree community and the TMF team after the heartbreaking cancellation of the festival was nothing short of phenomenal.
“We have heard countless stories of the hospitality that was shown on every corner of the island, with local people providing a hot slap-up meal and a much-needed drink, as well as a bed for the night.
“People’s help continued into the following day as they drove their unexpected lodgers to the ferry terminal in the morning, wanting to make sure they got home safe and sound.
“The TMF team going above and beyond and the island community support has always been so humbling to us all and this is definitely part of what makes the festival so special.
“Tiree and its people, in my opinion, are some of the warmest and most caring individuals in the world. I cannot thank them enough.”
Festival organisers are now working with insurers to arrange refunds and will be in direct contact with ticketholders in due course.