FolkWorld #75 07/2021
© Hebridean Celtic Festival

HebCelt #SurvivalSessions


14 – 17 July 2021

Artist Video HebCelt @ FROG

Between Islands, Saltfishforty, 
Colin Macleod, Staran, Sian, 
Fara, Tumbling Souls, Niteworks,
Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Elephant 
Sessions, Josie Duncan, Norrie 
Maciver, Willie Campbell 


A range of top Scottish music artistes are to perform at this year’s ‘HebCelt Survival Sessions’, the hybrid live and digital event being staged by the Hebridean Celtic Festival Trust, 14th-17th July 2021.


Artist Video Saltfishforty @ FROG

There will be a series of limited-audience live shows staged at the Stornoway Arts Centre, An Lanntair, featuring a special Between Islands show, Saltfishforty, Colin Macleod, Staran, Sian, Fara, and the Tumbling Souls which will all be live streamed for a global audience.

Pre-filmed digital content will provide a Survival Sessions exclusive special from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, as well as music from the Elephant Sessions, and a range of pre-recorded curated content featuring local artists. Also included will be the 2021 offering of Postcards from Scotland which will feature an exciting range of top Scottish artists.

The Survival Sessions digital event will be bookended by two specially commissioned new works from Lewis native Josie Duncan and Skye trad/electronic fusion band Niteworks.

Caroline Maclennan, HebCelt Festival Director, said: “This is a very strong programme which showcases our culture and Gaelic. It is gender-balanced and offers a variety of shows which we believe will give us a fantastic bounce-back from the pandemic. We are making it as simple as possible to access, both in terms of platforms and ticket prices.

“Topping Wednesday through Friday will be a virtual festival club with Josie Duncan, Norrie Maciver, and Willie Campbell respectively. There will also be Gaelic language, song and story workshops in partnership with Lews Castle College UHI, and a whisky tasting event. This programme delivers a strong essence of the HebCelt experience. We are so grateful to the ticket-buyers, supporters, funders, volunteers and friends of the festival who have made this possible, and continue to help our chances of a full return in 2022. We hope that the Survival Sessions will be greatly enjoyed by all.”

For more information and tickets visit the ticket link.

HebCelt is supported by Creative Scotland, EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and other public and private sector supporters.

Creative Scotland’s Siobhan Anderson said: “Community based with a firmly established international following, the much loved and revered Hebcelt opens up access to and enjoyment of the very best of Scotland’s Gaelic and traditional music. From family concerts to gigs featuring some of the country’s leading acts, local as well as up-and-coming talent, the festival’s hybrid programme will bring welcome connection between our talented artists and international audiences, leaving no one in any doubt about Scotland’s flourishing musical tradition.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “Events are an important part of our communities and EventScotland is delighted to be supporting HebCelt’s Survival Sessions through Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund. The fund was specifically designed to support organisers to respond and adapt to the effects of the pandemic by trying new ideas. By embracing the hybrid format, trad music fans both in Scotland and around the world will be able to enjoy the very best of Scottish music across the festival’s 4-day programme.”


Artist Video Fara @ FROG

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Cllr Roddie Mackay, said: “The Hebridean Celtic Festival is a major success story for the Western Isles, reaching out to audiences, local, national and worldwide. The Comhairle is delighted to support this year’s HebCelt programme and it is great to see the festival return, even if it is in limited form. We wish everyone involved the very best and look forward to a return to the full programme in 2022.”

Between Islands

Over the past few years An Lanntair’s Between Islands project has brought together musicians from Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides in collaboration. To date there has been three separate performances at HebCelt, focusing on new song writing, fiddle music and traditional song respectively. With lockdown calling a halt to plans for any further live work last year, the musicians continued to collaborate both across islands and projects to create some new material. A CD of this work was released last December, but this very special gathering will see all these musicians now share a stage, with some performing together for the very first time.


Artist Video Sian @ FROG

Between Islands line up: Willie Campbell, Kris Drever, Arthur Nicolson, Jane Hepburn Macmillan, Maggie Adamson, Neil Johnstone, Kathleen Macinnes, Jenny Keldie and Saltfishforty.


Saltfishforty are a dynamic duo hailing from the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland. Douglas Montgomery (fiddle/viola) and Brian Cromarty (songs/guitar/mandola) combine the rich traditional music of Orkney with original compositions. The duo have five albums to their name: Bere (2017) LIVE (2013), Netherbow (2010), Orkney Twister (2005) and Goose Music (2003).

The powerhouse partnership have won a devoted following throughout the UK and beyond, brilliantly transcending the duo format’s conventional confines. Linchpin figures in the currently flourishing revival of Orkney’s traditional music, they unite these deep-rooted sources with an exhilarating breadth of influence and expertise, catalysed by a creative empathy born from decades of friendship. The result is a sound of equally thrilling raw attack and multi-dimensional richness.


Fara brings together four leading musicians at the forefront of today’s young Scottish folk scene. Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price’s three fiddles combine with Rory Matheson’s piano to produce a fiery sound rooted strongly in their upbringing among the music of Orkney.



Artist Video

Sian, meaning “storm” or “the elements”, have been making their harmonious mark on the Scottish traditional music scene since 2016. Originally brought together to celebrate Gaelic songs composed by women; Ceitlin Lilidh, Eilidh Cormack and Ellen MacDonald keep their material firmly rooted in this theme. Their individual voices blend seamlessly, intertwining atmospheric harmonies to create a unique sound. The subtle and sympathetic accompaniment is provided by award-winning multi-instrumentalist Innes White, whose understanding of the songs shines through.

After three years performing together their highly acclaimed self-titled debut album, produced by Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw, was launched on 6 March 2020, just prior to lockdown. Delighted to have them back in Stornoway to perform for our live stream.


Some of the most sought-after artists on the Scottish folk scene have come together to create a formidable collective. Entitled Staran, the group released their eponymous debut album in May 2021. ‘Staran’, meaning path, trail or stepping stones in Gaelic, reflects the themes of ‘places’ and ‘moments’ that run through their music. The result of this collaboration is a rich and cohesive sound; atmospheric and textural with acoustic instruments at the heart of it.

Comprising a group of established musicians in their own right, this collective is a meeting of musical minds that traverses a diverse range of styles and backgrounds. While the overall sound is rooted in Scottish traditional music, there are undoubtedly elements of inspiration from the genres of jazz, minimalism and experimental electronica.

Elephant Sessions

Artist Video Elephant Sessions @ FROG

The band features Kim Carnie (vocals), John Lowrie (Piano), Innes White (Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar), James Lindsay (Bass) and Jack Smedley (Fiddle). Writing the album was a very organic process for the group, who made a conscious effort not to overcomplicate the production in order to focus on the collective sound. The respective talents of all of the musicians are blended together to create an incredible new body of work that showcases a unique collaboration between like-minded individuals.

Elephant Sessions

Exploding onto the indie folk scene to unparalleled effect, Elephant Sessions have appeared at some of the world’s most notable venues and festivals with audiences crowd surfing their way through the summer and marquee floors breaking under the weight of bouncing fans. Following their most recent album, ‘What Makes You’ in 2019, a UK tour was followed by a summer of festivals across Europe, including Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair, Tønder Festival, Wickham Festival, Belladrum, Towersey, Skye Live as well as a storming set at HebCelt. Returning from a tour of Australia in January 2020 and a quick appearance at Folk Alliance international in New Orleans, the band planned to again head out on the road to perform a few dates across the UK. Then came lockdown.

Josie Duncan

Artist Video "Oran Bagraidh"

It takes more than a worldwide pandemic to stop this band though! As soon as they were able to get together, in a Covid safe, socially distanced way of course, they started making plans to film a unique live performance in their home of the Scottish Highlands. As well as providing exclusive performance footage for fans, the stream ensured that their regular touring crew and wider teams, as well as their favourite local venue would all benefit from the stream. With help from Creative Scotland, Elephant Sessions filmed their Lockdown Special in late 2020 in Ironworks in Inverness which we present to you here.


HebCelt has specially commissioned some new work for their Survival Sessions. For this piece, Niteworks have teamed up with Hebridean filmmaker Dòl Eoin MacKinnon to present an exciting new short film. The work will reflect on the past year and a half of our lives during the pandemic while also looking forward with hope to a post-pandemic world of rebirth and renewal. Expect to hear never heard before versions of Niteworks' music, and something extra special! Hailing form Skye, our closest Hebridean neighbours, Niteworks have achieved critical acclaim for their modern take on Scottish and Gaelic music. They have regularly wowed HebCelt audiences over the years.

Josie Duncan - The Journey

HebCelt has specially commissioned some new work for their Survival Sessions 'The Journey’ or Turus Dhachaigh is a new audio-visual work developed by Josie Duncan. By combining tunes and songs inspired by the Gaelic tradition with atmospheric visuals, the piece takes its audience on a nostalgic and impactful trip to the Isle of Lewis. Inspired by the many little moments that comprise a journey across the Minch, ‘The Journey’ will capture the imagination of first-time visitors and seasoned travellers alike. The piece features Charlotte Printer (Skipinnish) on bass, Megan Macdonald (Eabhal, Heisk) on accordion and Charlie Grey (Westward the Light) on fiddle, with accompanying visuals designed by Elly Lucas. ‘The Journey’ is presented in both Gaelic and English.

Photo Credits: (1) Hebridean Celtic Festival, (2) Saltfishforty, (3) Fara, (4) Sian, (5) Staran, (6) Elephant Sessions, (7) Josie Duncan (unknown/website).

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