Former shinty star to return to his old pitch to stage new music festival in the shadow of Ben Nevis

Musician Gary Innes was a five-times winner of the Camanachd Cup during a glittering career with Fort William.
Musician Gary Innes was a five-times winner of the Camanachd Cup during a glittering career with Fort William.
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A former shinty star has unveiled plans to create a music festival for the pitch where he played for years in the shadow of Ben Nevis.

Gary Innes and his folk-rock band Mànran will stage a two-day event at An Aird park, on the banks of Loch Linnhe, near Fort William, in April.

Legendary singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean and former Runrig frontman Donnie Munro have been signed up to play at the event, along with festival favourites Skerryvore, Breabach and Flook.

The festival is being staged in April 2020 to mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of Innes’s band in 2020 and has been announced exactly five years after he retired from the sport.

However Innes, musical director of the new festival, already has ambitions to make it an annual fixture for the Lochaber area.

Manran have grown to become one of the biggest draws on the Scottish folk scene over the last decade, and also played more than 30 countries overseas, including tours of America, Asia and Australia.

The new event, Mànran: 10 by the Ben, is being launched in the wake of the demise of a number of other festivals around Scotland in recent years.

Electric Fields, in Dumfries and Galloway, Oban Live, Best of the West, in Inverary, and Loopallu have been all put on ice after running into funding and site problems.

However Innes, whose band will close the festival, said he wanted to work with his old club to “deliver something that we hope to build on for years to come “

Plans for the festival, which will have a capacity of around 3500 each day, include a £100-a-head VIP scheme offering access to Fort William Shinty Club’s headquarters, as well as “bubbles and canapes.”

Innes was a key member of the Fort William side which claimed five Camanachd Cup titles in the space of just six years, captaining the side to victor over Kilmallie in 20005.

Innes also captained Scotland in the 2009 shinty-hurling international clash against Ireland, when Scotland recording an away win at Croke Park.

Innes, who quit shinty to focus on his musical commitments, was tasked by BBC Radio Scotland with taking over the long-running Take the Floor show from Robbie Shephered when he stood down in 2016.

However Innes has worked on a number of shinty-related music project since retiring, including releasing a shinty-inspired song, The Caman Man, as his first solo single, creating a stage show about the men who left Highland shinty communities behind when they went off to serve in the First World War, and releasing a charity single to raise funds for the women’s game.

Innes said: “I’m so excited to bring a music festival back to Lochaber and especially to An Aird shinty field.

“I spent some of the best years of my life here during my time with Fort William.

“I can’t wait to come back and play on the field for the first time since retiring in 2014, albeit in a very different way.

“I’d also like to express my sincere thanks to Fort William Shinty Club and its committee for agreeing to host the two-day festival. Without them this event would not be possible.

“Having a music festival in Lochaber is something that I feel has been missing for years.

“It’s going to be brilliant to work with the club to deliver something that we hope to build on for years to come.”

Munro said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be sharing this very special occasion with Manran and deeply honoured to have been invited.

“It is hard to believe that Manran have reached their 10th anniversary year and these milestones are always worthy of celebration.

“During that time, Manran have established themselves as a truly international act, taking Scottish contemporary music to an international audience and acting as great ambassadors for Scotland’s rich musical and cultural heritage.

"I look forward to what I’m sure is going to be a great celebratory event.’