An eight-day festival of music is underway on the Isle of Skye.
The SEALL Festival of Small Halls is a new community-led winter festival taking place between 23 November and 1 December, bringing some of the biggest names in Scottish traditional music to remote village halls around Skye. It has received tremendous support from communities, local politicians and businesses, with concerts selling out weeks before the festival.
Eilean a’ Cheò Ward Councillor John Gordon opened the festival on Friday night with a concert and cèilidh.
The festival will take some of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians to halls in Braes, Breakish, Edinbane, Elgol, Kilmuir, Minginish, Plockton, Raasay, Tarskavaig and Waternish to give concerts, workshops and sessions in these remote rural communities.
Many of the halls will be making their evenings special by putting on meals, bars, tea and cake and closing the night with a cèilidh dance.
Concerts in Braes and Breakish have sold out and early indications show the festival, the first of its kind in Europe, is gathering strong support from communities.
Catherine Atkins, treasurer of Braes Village Hall, said: ‘We are delighted to be part of the first SEALL Festival of Small Halls and are looking forward very much to welcoming Duncan Chisholm, Jarlath Henderson, Donald Shaw and Innes Watson to our hall on 28 November for an exceptional night of music.
‘Our event is a celebration of community life and will be a bring your own bottle event. The committee will also be providing soup and sandwiches from 6.30pm.
‘We would never have been able to afford to host performing artists of such high calibre in our hall and are delighted the festival chose us as a venue. Not only are we getting some of the country’s best traditional musicians to play together here in Braes, but it provides us with an additional opportunity to gather for an evening and celebrate together as a community. Ticket sales and the raffle will also raise money for our Roof Fund, which is an additional bonus.
‘It is of enormous importance to bring people from our community together in celebration, especially during the winter months, and, with this event, the quality of the artists has enabled us to do so, selling all our tickets both on and offline for the workshop and the concert.
‘Events at the hall are always well supported by the community, but the response this time has been tremendous with people offering to help out and provide food and raffle items. The committee fully supports bringing more high-quality performing arts to Braes in the future and we hope to be included in next year’s festival and in SEALL’s future annual touring programmes.’
Festival events culminate in Seumas’ Bar at the Sligachan Hotel on St Andrew’s Night, 30 November, with a special celebratory meal and the Big Cèilidh with music by seven of the participating musicians.
The project has garnered strong interest from local businesses who are keen to play a part in helping their communities to celebrate. Shanks Heating and Renewables in Edinbane, Dunvegan Castle and Whitewave Outdoor Centre in Kilmuir have provided funds for free school workshops.
The Sligachan Hotel is the festival’s main local business sponsors and director Deirdre Curley said: ‘The Skye Festival of Small Halls is a step in the right direction for Highland regions like Skye.
‘The festival is providing opportunities for communities to go back to their roots and use their halls for the celebratory gatherings they were designed for.
‘We at the Sligachan are very well supported by our communities and we are always looking for new ways to connect with them. We are delighted to be providing a base for the festival musicians and look forward to the sessions as well as the Big Cèilidh on St Andrew’s Night, which is going to be a very special event.’
As well as providing a discounted St Andrew’s night dinner in Seumas’ Bar on the evening of the Big Cèilidh, the hotel is offering a special bed and breakfast rate of £79 with a celebratory bottle of Prosecco for Small Halls audiences during the festival. Anyone who wishes to book a room at a discounted rate should contact the Sligachan Hotel on 01478 650204.
For festival tickets and further information, visit www.seall.co.uk.