Brian Ferguson: Music festivals are a boon

Elton John at The Hydro. Picture: Robert Perry
Elton John at The Hydro. Picture: Robert Perry
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A MUSIC festivals boom has much more to offer, says Brian Ferguson

As MUSICIANS, artists, actors and theatre-makers mourned the demise of The Arches, it was probably rubbing salt into its wounds to see the latest value placed on some of the nation’s leading cultural events.

Research revealing music-related tourism is now worth a staggering £280 million to Scotland’s economy also found it supports more than 2,000 jobs.

If those figure initially seemed a tad high, one need only consider how many hotel rooms were filled in Glasgow during a week which saw Fleetwood Mac and Elton John appear at the Hydro.

However the new research has found that festivals are actually more lucrative than the hundreds of major concerts which are staged across Scotland.

Much of that is undoubtedly down to the growth of signature events like Celtic Connections and T in the Park in the last two decades. But it also takes account of more recent additions, like Belladrum, Wickerman and Loopallu, which have built up loyal audiences who plot a return well before any acts have been confirmed.

These events – and other one-off affairs such as the recent Oban extravaganza in Oban to mark the 10th anniversary of Celtic band Skerryvore and Mumford & Sons’ forthcoming festival in Aviemore – involve many fans travelling long distances for what have effectively become mini-holidays.

But the bigger events – which were only considered for last week’s report, are now very much the tip of the iceberg, due to an explosion of smaller events in almost every corner of the country in recent years. It is a rare weekend in Scotland which does not boast some form of festival over the summer, despite the challenges thrown up by the weather.

Remote communities behind events in the likes of Eigg, Rum, Gigha, Colonsay and Knoydart realise how important these can be, not only for the local economy, but in persuading people to visit for the first time. Next month in Bute, a brand new festival will be going head-to-head with established events in Stornoway and Tiree on the same weekend.

Festivals are now a key element of ferry operator Calmac’s marketing campaigns – its latest TV advert even features a group of young folk musicians reworking a Britpop classic – and it now runs a competition to find new acts for festivals.

With proper promotion by VisitScotland – the kind that is already devoted to Scotland’s castles, golf courses and whisky distilleries – and more secure funding for the less high-profile events from Creative Scotland, there is no reason why the value of music festivals cannot soar even further over the next decade.