Line-up revealed for first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival

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A new festival promoting the Outer Hebrides as one of the best places to spend the winter has unveiled its first line-up.

Singers Emma Pollock and Rachel Sermanni, actress Shauna Macdonald, Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott and Scotland's astronomer royal, John Brown, will be among the guests at the inaugural Hebridean Dark Skies Festival in February.

Children's theatre show Space Ape, a screening of groundbreaking silent film Wunder der Schöpfung accompanied by a live soundtrack, and an exhibition showcasing the images captured at night by photographers based in the islands are among the expected highlights.

Led by the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, the festival will see two weeks of indoor and outdoor astronomy and stargazing events staged across the islands each February as part of a drive to attract more visitors to the islands outwith the peak tourism season.

Pollock and Sermanni will both be appearing in the multi-media show Whatever Gets You Through The Night, which will feature material inspired by the hours between midnight and 4am.

Macdonald will present a screening of her film The Rocket Post, which recalls the true story of a German scientist's attempts to deliver rockets full of letters between Hebridean islands.

Potential visitors will be urged to visit some of the most remote corners and “end-of-the-road” destinations in the islands to get the best views of the night sky, including possible sightings of the Northern Lights, the Milky Way and the Orion Nebula.

Key locations include Gallan Head and the Callanish Standing Stones on the west side of Lewis, and Ness, the northernmost part of the Outer Hebrides.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, events and marketing co-ordinator at An Lanntair, said: “We’re really excited to be leading on the launch of this ambitious new festival.

"Lewis and Harris are incredible places to visit all year round, and with this festival we are giving people another compelling reason to travel here during the winter months – as well as putting on a packed programme of events for those of us who live here to enjoy.

"We’ve worked very hard to make sure this festival offers something for everyone – it’s part science festival, part arts festival, part outdoor festival, with things to do for all ages.

"There are plenty of events about space and astronomy, but we’ll also be exploring the theme of ‘dark skies’ in a broader sense."