Former shinty star reveals plans for home turf music festival in the Highlands
A former shinty player who juggled his playing career with music-making has revealed plans to stage his own festival on his home turf in the West Highlands.
Musician and broadcaster Gary Innes will be launching "Lochaber Live" at the An Air shinty park in Fort William in the autumn.
A 2000-capacity big top will be erected at the park, which is located at the foot of Ben Nevis for the three-day event, which will coincide with the staging of shinty's annual Camanachd Cup Final in Fort William in September.
Innes, who founded the Gaelic folk-rock band Mànran in 2010, took over from Robbie Shepherd as presenter of Radio Scotland’s long-running Take the Floor programme after ending his playing career with Fort William.
Innes, a long-time shinty player for Fort William, announced the new event at a sold-out celebration of the musical heritage of Lochaber at Glasgow’s City Hall, which was part of the annual Celtic Connections festival.
Innes previously instigated the huge Hoolie at the Hydro event which was staged for the second year in a row in December.
The new event in Fort William will see the town boast its own large-scale festival for the first time since a previous Lochaber Live event was staged in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Highland rockers Wolfstone, who appeared at the last Lochaber Live in 1994, will be among the bands appearing this year, along with Innes’s group.
The line-up also includes Mànran, pop-rock favourites Tide Lines, who are led by Fort William singer-songwriter Robert Robertson, and two long-running trad bands with strong roots in Lochaber and the West Highlands, Gaelic supergroup Dàimh and “acid croft” trailblazers, and the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band.
Irish accordion star Sharon Shannon, who played at the funeral of Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan last month, Highland trad outfit Hò-rò and Spean Bridge singer-songwriter Marianne Fraser-Stewart, who performs as Little Win, have also been confirmed for the event.
Innes said: “It’s only right that Lochaber will once again have its own festival which really reflects the breadth of talent and love of traditional music in the region.
”I played at the very last one aged just 12 at the Nevis Centre in Fort William. A lot has happened in the intervening three decades and with the profile and platform of traditional music now at what feels like an all-time high, it seems like the perfect time to try and resurrect a cultural event that people locally still have such fond memories of.
“We’ve got a fantastic bill of artists lined up, who all share my love and affinity for the culture of Lochaber and the Highlands.
"I know they will do a stellar job of entertaining the crowds at An Aird this September. We want to make this event as open and welcoming as possible to people of all ages so I would encourage festival fans to round up the family and come along to what is going to be an incredible celebration.
"I have no doubt the people of Lochaber – and further afield – will have that tent rocking.”
Benny MacDonald, one of the organisers of the original Lochaber Live, said: ““Lochaber Live is such a fondly and well remembered event.
"It was a grand affair that was never forgotten by the people of Fort William and created such a buzz about the place, with bands from across Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and beyond coming together. It helped create lifelong friendships and I’m sure this excitement and these connections will be replicated with this new edition.
“There was a surge around traditional music around that time and it feels like that’s happening again now.
"It’s fabulous to see the festival coming back around and a big well done to Gary for coming up with the idea.
"It will be nice to see such a big event in the town once again. Lochaber Live is still talked about so I’m sure many people, including locals and those travelling for the event, will be looking forward to it.”
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