Locharber Live: Gary Innes reboots popular music festival which wound down 30 years ago

It captivated music fans from across the Highlands 30 years ago. But now festival Lochaber Live is being rebooted thanks to renowned musician Gary Innes.

The event used to be a landmark show on the festival calendar in the 80s and 90 before winding down to a smaller-scale concert.

But broadcaster Gary Innes, from Spean Bridge, wanted to see his hometown festival restored to its former glory in a way that reflected Scotland’s thriving traditional music scene in 2024.

Lochaber Live, set to take place in Fort William from 20-22 September, will see a whole host of Scottish talent play to thousands at An Aird shinty field. Headliners include Tide Lines and MĂ nran.

With a capacity of 2,000 per night and no age restrictions, the all-new Lochaber Live looks set to attract a swathe of music fans both young and old to round off their summer with some mighty Highland hospitality and music.

‘My home area is so special to me, so it fills me with pride to be rebooting one of the most beloved music events Lochaber has ever seen,’ Gary said.

‘It’s only right that Lochaber will once again have its own festival which really reflects the breadth of talent and love of traditional music in the region.

‘It’s 30 years since the last Lochaber Live. I played at the very last one aged just 12 at the Nevis Centre in Fort William.

‘A lot has happened in the intervening three decades and with the profile and platform of traditional music now at what feels like an all-time high, it seems like the perfect time to try and resurrect a cultural event that people locally still have such fond memories of.

‘We’ve got a fantastic bill of artists lined up, who all share my love and affinity for the culture of Lochaber and the Highlands, and I know they will do a stellar job of entertaining the crowds at An Aird this September.

‘We want to make this event as open and welcoming as possible to people of all ages so I would encourage festival fans to round up the family and come along to what is going to be an incredible celebration.

‘I have no doubt the people of Lochaber – and further afield – will have that tent rocking for the newly restored Lochaber Live this September.’

Among the acts with close ties to Lochaber taking to the stage this September are Tide Lines. Led by Fort William’s own Robert Robertson, the Scottish four-piece will be showcasing their signature combination of folk melodies and big-chorused contemporary indie-rock for a home crowd.

One of the region’s finest exponents of Celtic music, Mànran, will also bring their powerhouse presence to the reimagined Lochaber Live, hot off the heels of their performance to crowds of 10,500 at Hoolie in the Hydro last month.

The legendary Wolfstone and its all-star bill of musicians were the last band to headline Lochaber Live back in 1994. They will make a glorious return to its new stage, 30 years on from their last performance there.

Gaelic supergroup from west Lochaber and Skye, Dàimh will also play, alongside the one and only Shooglenifty. Founded by the late Angus Grant, son of Lochaber fiddle legend Aonghas Grant, the band’s members include other Lochaber locals, drummer James Mackintosh and vocalist Kaela Rowan, who will see their acid croft sounds celebrated on home turf this September.

In line with the former Lochaber Live’s strong connection with Irish musicians, Ireland’s much-loved Sharon Shannon Trio will also be part of this year’s bill.

Fort William festival favourites Hò-rò, Spean Bridge singer and guitarist Little Win and the inimitable Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band, are set to perform to crowds at An Aird as well, with even more acts still to be announced.

Lochaber Live will share a home and coincide with the staging of the Camanachd Cup Final – Scotland’s coveted national shinty final.

The event at the foot of Ben Nevis will comprise ticketed events on the Friday night and Saturday night and a free family day on Sunday.

Founding member of the original Lochaber Live, Benny MacDonald, said: ‘Lochaber Live is such a fondly and well remembered event.

‘It was a grand affair that was never forgotten by the people of Fort William and created such a buzz about the place, with bands from across Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and beyond coming together.

‘It helped create lifelong friendships and I’m sure this excitement and these connections will be replicated with this new edition.

‘There was a surge around traditional music around that time and it feels like that’s happening again now.

‘It’s fabulous to see the festival coming back around and a big well done to Gary for coming up with the idea. It will be nice to see such a big event in the town once again.’