Tributes paid to eco-friendly festival chief bowing out after 25th anniversary sell-out in Scotland
An overall attendance of more than 18,000 was notched up at the Hebridean Celtic Festival, which Caroline Maclennan helped launch in Stornoway in the mid-1990s.
Her final four-day event, which featured more than 60 different acts, is staged in the grounds of Lews Castle and the An Lanntair arts centre.
As well as championing Gaelic and Hebridean culture, the festival has been a trailblazer for sustainable policies in the events industry.
Its most recent initiative saw one of the festival’s main stages powered by locally-produced “green hydrogen”. It was believed to the first festival in Scotland to run a full stage with clean energy for its entire duration under a partnership with the Harris-based start-up company PlusZero.
The festival introduced reusable cups at its main arena in 2015 and brought in a complete ban on “single use” plastic bottles three years later.
Festival goers from more than 100 countries are said to have helped ensure HebCelt notched up its biggest ever year at the box office as the event bounced back from the impact of the pandemic and was able to go ahead in full for the first time since 2019.
The event, which has been valued at more than £2 million to the Isle of Lewis, has played host to headline gigs by the likes of The Waterboys, Van Morrison, Runrig, The Proclaimers and Deacon Blue.
The festival, which champions Gaelic culture each year, has also played a key role in raising the profile of acts like Julie Fowlis, Skerryvore, Tide Lines, the Peatbog Faeries, Niteworks and Colin Macleod.
Ms Maclennan’s deputy, Graham McCallum, will take over as director in the autumn and is overseeing plans for the 2023 festival.
Gayle Findlay, chair of the HebCelt board, said: “In the mid-1990s, Caroline and some friends had the bold idea of setting up an event to celebrate our island’s Gaelic culture and Celtic music.
“Since then, Caroline’s love of music, her island home and its Gaelic culture have been the driving force behind HebCelt and have shaped the event into what it is today.
“Caroline has guided the festival through many highs (and lows) over the years and she leaves behind a legacy for the ‘HebCelt family’ and wider community that we’re sure will last for years to come.
“Caroline has given many island musicians the opportunity to perform at the festival – for many, their first time in front of a larger crowd.
"But she has also supported the Celtic music scene across the globe and will be missed by our international friends as well.”
Mr MacCallum said: “This is a fitting way for Caroline to end her tenure as festival director.
"To have hit 25 years with our biggest selling festival ever is incredible.
"I’m sure she will continue to help the festival for years to come, but we owe her a great deal of thanks for her crucial work in making HebCelt such a success.”
Ms Maclennan said: “We are delighted to have had our best festival ever in terms of ticket sales, attendances, revenues and sheer positive enthusiasm for HebCelt.
“The performances of the artists have been superb and people have turned out in droves to enjoy them.
"As ever, we owe so much to our festival goers who continue to support us. We are entirely grateful to them.
"We also have to thank our sponsors who put their trust in us to deliver, and to the volunteers and community who are essential to HebCelt happening.”
David Amos, founder and managing director of PlusZero, said: “I’m delighted that PlusZero has been able to support HebCelt in powering the festival’s first zero-carbon moments using green hydrogen produced here in the Western Isles.
“Over the 25 years that the festival has been in operation, it has been forward-looking in its approach towards the precious island environment.
"I’m grateful to HebCelt and the artists for allowing PlusZero the platform to demonstrate the potential of this truly green energy technology.”
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