Tiree Music Festival (TMF) was launched in 2010 by Daniel Gillespie, the lead singer of local band Skerryvore and fellow islander Stewart Mclellan.
The festival has grown to attract around 500 revellers each year to the Inner Hebrides island, which was nicknamed the ‘Hawaii of the north’ thanks to having some of the highest levels of sunshine recorded in the British Isles and incredibly large waves striking its white sandy beaches.
I first came to TMF in 2011 when there was just one stage, a few stands selling food and most of the crowd were citizens of Tiree.
Three years later there wasn’t a seat in sight when I boarded the ferry at Oban and all the passengers were travelling to the little island to experience the festival. Once we’d unloaded at the dock a queue was quick to form in hope of jumping on the island’s little bus to the campsite. My eyes popped when I saw how large the festival had become.
Three different stages had formed as well as the TMF merchandise tent, burger stands, crepe stands and much more. Despite the growth, this was still a family festival.
Two large campsites were filling up. One for people wanting a relaxing weekend listening to the amazing folk music and the other for the more rowdy who felt they had to stay up all night and party. It’s no wonder this (once) little festival has sprouted, as it truly is an amazing weekend.
Friday: I disembarked the ferry on Friday morning and the festival kicked off that evening. Our tent was set up next to a large pile of silage bales (the perfect place for a hidden pee). The sun blared down and it wasn’t long before we ambled across the road to experience the rays on a sandy beach. The festival was quick to get going and late to finish. Accordions and fiddles could be heard for miles and the jolly music. caused everyone to do at least a little jig. The campsite was friendly. Even the police were taking ‘selfies’ with almost every teenager there. Blaming our 3am start to catch the early ferry, I retired from the party quite early on in the evening and fell asleep to the droning of the bagpipes.
Saturday: I awoke to heaven-bright sunshine and a very welcome runny egg and bacon roll. The queue for the showers seemed almost never ending but they seemed a better option to the freezing sea that many people had decided to bathe in that morning. The music kicked off earlier on Saturday with the amazing Leanne Smith performing at midday. I explored the other stands at the festival and managed to purchase the perfect car sticker for my mum. That night the festival was even busier and a rumbling stomach formed quickly after the non-stop dancing. Cheesy chips were the perfect bedtime grub.
Sunday: Sunday started with another bacon and egg roll and then a pop to the Co-op so that my chocolate cravings could be answered. I soon realised that the Co-op was the only food store on the island and it was at least an hour’s walk from the festival site. By slotting into the Tiree culture it is extremely easy to trust the friendly locals and hitch-hiking became very handy. The store ended up being right next to the main Tiree pub called the Scarinish where we tucked into a burger and chips for lunch. Journeying back to the festival was simple as it seemed almost everyone on the island was heading there. Being the last night, everyone was making the most of it. A sea of orange and white began as everyone was carrying the ‘cocktail cone’. This was a miniature traffic cone holding an alcoholic beverage. A late night of dancing ended with the incredible performance by Skerryvore – a favourite band of the festival. Everyone was exhausted after the full-on weekend at sleep welcomed even the biggest of party animals.
Monday: A shockingly early rise to compete for a place on the first ferry slapped like a glass of icy cold water and everyone was raring to leave by 8am. Hangovers hit at the dock making the task of filling in boarding cards almost impossible for some. A snoring ferry back to Oban passed by quickly as the exhilarating weekend left everyone debilitated. Bring on TMF 2015.
Planning a visit? Here’s what to bring:
• Lots of pound coins for things such as shower tokens or sockets for phone charging
• A waterproof jacket (it is in Scotland!)
• Pack of cards for entertainment on the ferry
• A travel-sized mirror so no-one screams when you clamber out your tent in the morning
• Wet wipes – they’re useful for everything
• Swimsuit just in case you fancy a dip in the sea
• A disposable camera – it’s a beautiful island
• Comfy shoes for the trek to the Co-op
• A whole load of sunscreen to prevent any lobster look-alikes
• And finally a hairbrush; because not everyone looks good with the windswept look
Daniel Gillespie started up TMF and performs there with his band Skerryvore.
1. When did you first get into music?
My first memory of being involved with music was at the Tiree Feis when I was eight years old getting lessons from Paddy Shaw (father of Donald Shaw of Capercaillie) on accordion as well as Gaelic drama with Artair Donald (who now hosts one of the stages at TMF).
2. It’s very impressive you can play both the accordion and the bagpipes. Are there any other instruments you’d love to play?
I would love to play guitar and piano.
3. Where did you perform your first gigs?
Personally, my first ‘paid’ gig was in the Scarinish Hotel on Tiree. As for Skerryvore, the first gigs were on Tiree and surrounding islands such as Barra, Mull, Uist and Coll.
4. Where have you most enjoyed performing?
My favourite festival has to be the Tonder Festival in Denmark. It is a magical event and we have taken so much inspiration from that and tried to implement it into TMF.
5. What gave you the idea to start a festival on Tiree?
Purely the experience and inspiration from performing at other festivals with Skerryvore. Tiree was such a springboard for the band and we had some amazing summers there when starting so I wanted to share the island and atmosphere with others.
6. What’s your favourite thing about Tiree?
The fresh sea air. I never noticed or appreciated it when growing up on Tiree but when I go back now it is so noticeable. I have to also say being home for my mum’s
cooking is a favourite part of Tiree!
7. How have things changed for Skerryvore since the festival started up?
The band have toured abroad more and more each year, which in turn has made the annual return to TMF even more special.
8. Do you have a favourite fellow band that performs at the festival?
A band that deserves special mention though are Face the West. They have played some electric sets over the years at TMF and have almost been adopted as one of Tiree’s own alongside Gunna Sound, Trail West, Skipinnish etc
9. I see you’re performing in both America and other countries in Europe later this year. If you could perform anywhere where would you choose?
Australia. We haven’t managed to get there yet despite a few approaches from festivals & promoters.
10. Do you have any plans for the festival in the future?
We have lots of ideas and plans, however the main driver is to try and make TMF sustainable in the long term. That is the biggest challenge we face but one we will strive towards.