For their many devoted followers, there is nothing to beat taking part in, or delving right into, the Shetland Folk Festival and the Beltane Fire Festival. Behind the undoubtedly boisterous celebrations lies a whole year’s worth of dedication and toil to make each event not only happen but somehow live up to its previous incarnations and reinventions.
Elsewhere in Scotland, organising teams and committees are putting the finishing touches to programmes, pinning up posters and fine-tuning line-ups and logistics for the final furlong of organisation over the next few weeks. May has somehow become one of the busiest months in the Scottish cultural calendar and it’s intriguing to ponder exactly why.
It’s well before the school holidays in Scotland and is not traditionally the warmest time of year for outdoor events. Yet I would argue that the strength of the events and festivals offering across the country in May can now match any other time of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to make it to some of the long-time cornerstones of the month. The experiences on offer at Orkney Folk Festival, the Knockengorroch Festival and Feis Ile are hard to beat. Hidden Door, the event which has successfully transformed and reopened a host of previously inaccessible sites and buildings across Edinburgh, is set to unveil its transformation of a Scottish Widows building at the end of the month.
Events that have remained tantalisingly out of my reach so far include the Perth Festival of the Arts, one of the country’s longest-running celebrations of culture, which notched up its half-century last year, Fynefest, on the banks of Loch Fyne, and relative newcomers like the Skye Live Festival and The Gathering in Inverness.
These latter two events have not only done huge amounts to raise the profile and develop audiences for acts emerging from the thriving trad music scene but have obviously helped expand and develop the music festival scene in Scotland. There is even more evidence of that this year with new arrivals like the Midnight Sun Weekender in Stornoway.
Some of the UK music industry’s biggest names will be heading to Dundee for the long-awaited return of Radio 1’s Big Weekend festival while Aberdeenshire will be basking in the limelight, and no shortage of nostalgia, when celebrations to mark 40 years of Local Hero being filmed on location in the area are staged. If all that wasn’t enough, there is also a bluegrass festival in Newton Stewart and a celebration of punk in Dunoon to get to grips with.
The most obvious question that comes to mind is whether all these events will reach the audiences that their organisers are banking on when many of them have had to battle crippling increases in their costs. However, the array of events and breadth of culture on offer over the next few weeks is staggering. Summer may not be here just yet but if the feast of festivals and events over the next few weeks is anything to go by, the immediate outlook for the arts in Scotland could hardly be brighter.