Village strikes a chord with Lennon festival

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A SMALL Highland village where John Lennon spent his childhood holidays is to host a major festival in his honour.

Durness, on the north coast of Sutherland, is to host the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival, which organisers say will be one of the most extraordinary events ever staged in the UK.

The three-day festival will feature performances and work by musicians, painters and poets from across the UK, as well as several members of Lennon's family.

Tickets for the festival, which will be held on 28-30 September, cost 25 for a day or 60 for three days and go on sale today.

Between the ages of nine and 14, the former Beatle spent summer holidays at Durness. Lennon and his cousin, Stanley Parkes, used to stay at the family croft at Sango Bay and is claimed the area inspired his song In My Life.

Lennon later returned to the area, in 1969, with Yoko Ono and their children.

A memorial commemorating his time in the area was unveiled in 2002 by Mr Parkes.

Artists appearing at the new festival include the Master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who will present a world premiere of a Beatles Prom with the Royal Academy of Music.

Nizlopi, who hit Number One at the end of 2005 with The JCB Song, will perform, and painter Peter Howson will stage a Lennon exhibition. Poets John Cooper Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy and Michael Horovitz are also taking part.

Fife singer-songwriter King Creosote, former Runrig frontman Donnie Munro and folk group Blazin' Fiddles are also on the three-day bill, alongside a host of up-and-coming Scots bands.

A dance event in Britain's biggest sea cave, and a mobile cinema screening Beatles films are among the other highlights.

John Lennon's half-sister, Julia Baird, and Mr Parkes will also speak about their famous relative at the festival.

Ms Baird said: "John really loved Durness and would be very pleased that his influence was being celebrated with this festival.

"I am delighted to be involved in what is a high quality event which has taste and respect at its core.

"We are all looking forward very much to coming again to a place that meant so much to my brother."

And Mr Parkes added: "John would be both delighted and surprised that he had inspired such a great festival in a part of the world he loved.

"This is not about exploiting his fame, it is about celebrating his inspiration and that is why so many leading artists and John's family have supported the event.

"John was more than a musician - he loved painting, drawing and writing in Durness and that is also well reflected in the festival's arts."

The event has also been praised by acclaimed Liverpool playwright Alan Bleasdale.

The creator of Boys From The Blackstuff said: "Having held the Beatles in considerable awe most of my life, especially John Lennon, I am really delighted with this festival."

Durness, which has a population of just 350, is one of the most remote villages on mainland Britain.

A spokesman for festival organisers North Highland Tourism said: "These are likely to be the hottest festival tickets around this summer."