Na Trads: Music awards recognise project honouring witch-hunt victims, island music festival founder and Highland village hall

A haunting homage to the victims of centuries-old witch hunts, the founder of an island music festival who has bowed out after 25 years and a venue in one of Scotland’s most remote wilderness areas have been honoured at the nation’s “Folk Oscars.”

The Hebridean Celtic Festival was named Scotland's event of the year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Colin Cameron
The Hebridean Celtic Festival was named Scotland's event of the year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Colin Cameron

Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl were named composers of the year at the Scots Trad Music Awards for Heal & Harrow – which was inspired by the witch trials in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries.

They released an album and toured the country with a multi-media live show inspired by specially-commissioned stories from author Mairi Kidd on some of the real-life women who were executed, including Lilias Addie and Isobel Gowdie, as well as other characters from Scottish folklore and mythology.

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The awards ceremony in Dundee saw Caroline Maclennan, who stood down after the 25th anniversary edition of the Hebridean Celtic Festival this summer, recognised for services to traditional music, as it was also named Scotland’s best live event.

Caroline Maclennan has been honoured for service to traditional music after stepping down as director of the Hebridean Celtic Festival after its 25th anniversary edition.

Knoydart Community Hall, a favourite with trad bands who have to make a seven-mile sea crossing, was named best venue, ahead of Perth Concert Hall, The Tolbooth, in Stirling, and the Universal Hall, in Findhorn.

Hebridean band Skerryvore, who started life in Tiree and are involved in the island’s own music festival, were named Scotland’s best live band at the ceremony, also known as “Na Trads,” which returned to the Caird Hall.

Other contenders had included Elephant Sessions, who won the coveted album of the year prize with “For The Night” and also performed at the event, along with the groups Fara, Trip and award-winning fiddler Eryn Rae.

The event – sponsored by Gaelic media service MG Alba – was broadcast live on the BBC Alba channel as a full-scale ceremony was able to be staged for the first time since 2019.Heading West, Don Coutts’ documentary following the band Shooglenifty in the aftermath of the death of fiddler and frontman Angus Grant, picked up the media award months after premiering at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Heading West, a documentary following the band Shooglenifty in the aftermath of the death of long-time fiddler and frontman Angus Grant, was honoured at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Douglas Robertson

Other big winners included Skye electronica outfit Valtos, named best up-and-coming act, Gaelic singer of the year Ruairidh Gray and Scots singer of the year Beth Malcolm.

Breabach were crowned Scottish best folk band, while Megan Henderson, singer and multi-instrumentalist with the group, was crowned musician of the year.

Capercaillie’s fiddler Charlie McKerron was named best music tutor, while the band’s singer, Karen Matheson, who performed at the memorial service for Queen Elizabeth in Edinburgh, was among those inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

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Singer, writer and activist Dr Anne Lorne Gillies was honoured for services to the Gaelic language. Author Anne Donovan was honoured for services to the Scots language.

Lauren MacColl and Rachel Newton's Heal & Harrow project, which was inspired by the presecution and execution of women in 16th and 17th century Scotland, was honoured at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Elly Lucas

Caroline MacLennan was honoured with the Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award. Previous winners have included the broadcaster Robbie Shepherd, the Gaelic singer and long-time champion of the language, Arthur Cormack and the late Shetland Folk Festival stalwart Davie Henderson.

Dave Francis, director of Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, who sponsor the Hamish Henderson Award, said: “The award goes to individuals who have made a major contribution to traditional music over a lifetime. Caroline MacLennan has made not only a significant contribution to traditional music but to the economy and profile of Lewis.”

Skerryvore were named best live at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Alan Peebles
Beth Malcolm was named Scots Singer of the Year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Alan Richardson
Megan Henderson was named Scotland's musician of the year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. Picture: Elly Lucas

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