Artists and astronomers to join forces to celebrate the dark skies of the Outer Hebrides

Artist Ione Parkin's work will be showcased at the Dark Skies Festival on the Isle of Lewis next year.
Artist Ione Parkin's work will be showcased at the Dark Skies Festival on the Isle of Lewis next year.
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Artists and astronomers are to join forces to stage special events at a new stargazing festival aimed at persuading people to visit the Outer Hebrides in the depths of winter.


The Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott, Scotland’s Astronomer Royal John Brown, folk singer-songwriter Karine Polwart and jazz musician Steve Petty will be among those appearing at the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival on the Isle of Lewis in February.

Award-winning singer Karine Polwart will give a sneak preview of a new supernova-themed stage show at the festival.

Award-winning singer Karine Polwart will give a sneak preview of a new supernova-themed stage show at the festival.

The festival, which was launched earlier this year to capitalise on the fact that the Outer Hebrides have some of the darkest skies in the UK in winter.

The new event has already inspired the creation of a major Winter in the Wild “off-season” tourism campaign backed by the likes of VisitScotland, Calmac, Creative Scotland, Loganair and the Outer Hebrides Tourism agency.

Read more: Scottish island launches 'wild winter' tourism campaign to draw visitors as summer fades​

The 2020 festival will include an exhibition of visual art created in collaboration with astrophysicists, cosmologists and planetary geologists, a “visual moon-bounce” event which will see a trained radio telescope operator send images to the moon and back, and stargazing trips around Lewis.

Polwart will be offering festivalgoers an exclusive sneak preview of The Only Light Was Stars, a new “supernova-themed” stage show, as well as taking part in an “in conversation” event with leading astronomers.

The two-week festival will also include screenings of classic science fiction films Solaris, Contact, Interstellar and Ad Astra. There will also be a restaging of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds musical, which is about to be turned into a new BBC drama.

Read more: The Hebrides after dark: amazing photographs released

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We’re really excited to be announcing our second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival programme.

“We were very encouraged by the hugely positive response to our first festival and will be working hard to build on that success in 2020.”

A spokesman for An Lanntair said: “The Isle of Lewis has some of the darkest skies in the UK. Many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula, the Milky Way and the Great Andromeda galaxy. Lewis is also one of the best places in the UK to see the Northern Lights.”