Scotland's most remote club: Ticket sales for baile/baile show demand for fresh entertainment in Ullapool music scene
“We have a lot of music in Ullapool, but this is about bringing in some variety,” said Sigi Whittle, a 27-year-old DJ who is set to play at the launch of Scotland’s most remote club night.
The architect assistant by day and DJ by night is one of the organisers behind baile/baile, a community-centric club event kicking off in the Highland town this weekend.
It will bring a series of four electronic-themed nights which will take place over the winter months at the award-winning The Ceilidh Place, a 100-capacity music hub and exhibition space in the heart of the town.
Sigi, who grew up in Ullapool, but has since moved to Edinburgh, said the event idea was born out of conversations at the pub hearing how bored his home friends were.
"I love where I grew up but you have to move away if you want to find a job or ‘cut your teeth’ in an industry,” he said, “and that also extends to what you get up to in your day-to-day.”
The cultural scene in Ullapool is rich, particularly with traditional music. But it’s the variety of entertainment that is missing, Sigi said.
"My friends say they are always looking for experiences further a field for a change.
"Some of them go on holidays abroad or travel for a night out in Inverness or a festival in the Borders because there isn’t much choice at home.
"When we’re catching up in the pub at home the conversation often goes ‘what have you been up to’ with the reply being ‘you’re seeing it.’
"There’s been a real desperation for entertainment in the area that goes beyond gathering in a pub on a Friday night.”
And that has been proven to be so in the ticket sales.
With several days to go before the opening night, almost three quarters of the tickets have been sold.
"I am not sure how much we would sell just on the door so its good to see they’ve been selling,” Sigi quipped.
The demand for new entertainment has also been reflected in local support, including from the Ullapool Dance Festival, as well as funding from the Ullapool Harbour Trust.
"Seeing how many people have been getting behind the night has been amazing.
"Ullapool is used to having a lot of activity; we had the book festival and the Loopallu music festival.
"The amount of people behind us and the funding speaks volumes for that desperation for something new here.”
The venue isn’t huge, but that’s exactly how the organisers want it, said Jemima Fasakin, co-host and one of baile/baile’s resident DJs.
"We want to keep it tight to get a good atmosphere.”
One of the venues the pair modelled the club series on is Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh, a spot known for its more intimate and close-up gigs.
“The Ceilidh Place is perfect for a similar experience,” she said.
"Whatever number turn up, it will feel like a proper club.”
And why electronic music?
With a broad genre to set the theme, the electronic nights will offer the variety that is needed in the Highland music scene, Sigi and Jemima said.
The pair are keen to showcase talent, not just from Ullapool, but the whole of the north of Scotland.
The line-ups include MLC representing Forres, Corran representing Fort William, Miss Cabbage representing Tain and Massie representing Aberdeenshire.
Feena who runs Miss World – a female club night in Edinburgh – and joeymousepads who runs Fast Muzik – a night that has become synonymous with queer culture in Glasgow, will also make appearances.
Sigi added: "We want to bring that range because part of the experience of moving to a city when you’re young is you try things out and listen to different music so we want bring a good mix to the younger crowd in Ullapool.
"Bringing this kind of entertainment and experience to the area so people don’t feel the need to leave is the aim.”
There are also reserved DJ slots for locals who have never played in a club before.
"Getting into the club scene can be difficult.
"I know a few local DJs who set up decks in a shed to put on a night so these nights might offer something a bit different.”
‘It’s refreshing having the choice’
Ullapool resident Arran MacDonald, 27, said she hopes to make all four club nights.
Having moved back home to the Highland town after studying in Edinburgh, she the variety of entertainment for a lot of younger people in the area is limited.
"It’s refreshing having the choice knowing that there’s something different to go to,” she said.
“There are a lot of community events Ullapool, but this is so different which is what makes it exciting.
"Having a club night with dance music is definitely a first for the area.
"Inverness, which is about an hour away is our nearest city, but you would need to go to Edinburgh or Glasgow for a similar event to this.”
She said baile/baile is particularly welcome with the winter ahead when events and activities in the area shut down because of the low season.
"A lot around here is focused on tourism and the locals often feel a bit forgotten about, so it’s great this is starting up in the winter because it can be a difficult time.”
Jock Urquhart, general manager of The Ceilidh Place, said: “It will be good to see the line-up with DJs who have made a name for themselves and who will be bringing in a different flavour.
“This place has always been a place where music happens.
“Our focus has been on trad but the energy is the same – from straight trad to electronic creation, it’s a venue for people to come together and enjoy that.
"There’s a great power in collective experience which is something we want to be behind.”
The word baile translates as ‘village’ in Gaelic and ‘dance’ in Spanish, a combination the organisers want to see at the venue when they hit the music on Saturday.
Tickets for the event are available here.
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