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Words and photographs by Debbie Koritsas
Orkney Folk Festival
A conspiracy between music and landscape to create the perfect festival experience?
•Alison McMorland •A young fiddler from Kirkwall
& Geordie MacIntyre Grammar School
rkney is a beautiful your descent through the clouds the music, and was lucky to be like clockwork, and there are
archipelago of islands towards Kirkwall Airport affords able to extend my stay slightly always niggles when so much has
reached by ferry from the most wonderful views over to allow time to see the islands. to be co-ordinated, both before
the most northerly points on Scapa Flow. The views are The staff at Visit Orkney were very and during the event. However,
the Scottish mainland – and matchless, even before you’ve helpful in supplying information the whole festival felt both relaxed
every May for the past quarter arrived. ahead of my visit. The long, light and professional at the same time.
of a century, a folk festival days and the programming of the The new director is The Chair’s
has taken place there. You It was my first visit to Orkney. festival itself allowed plenty of Bob Gibbon, and he’s assisted
approach Orkney via sea, I’d planned to meet up with a time to explore too. It would have by fellow band members Fionn
courtesty of Northlink ferries, or few friends and to enjoy the Folk been such a waste to travel all that MacArthur and Gavin Firth, along
via Scotland’s major airports, Festival and to see something of way, only to not be able to enjoy with Orkney-based musicians
courtesy of Loganair. You have the islands during my visit. What something of the interest, history including Jo Philby and Fiona
to make an effort to get to these I hadn’t been prepared for was and beauty of the islands. Driver, both of whom settled
islands. Whichever way you the total assault on my senses on the island having taken the
choose to arrive, the views (I blame the islands!), and I Orkney Festival was run until last decision to leave their English
are stunning on a clear day. returned home with a deep love year by Johnny Mowat, assisted life behind them. I was surprised
If you arrive by ferry, you skirt of people and place, and a desire by his wife Marie – Johnny how many ex-pat English people
round the Island of Hoy with her to return on the slightest pretext. has been properly credited as I met on Orkney. Native islanders
brooding, majestic mountains to Of course the Festival was bringing peoples’ attention to leave to make their living on
your right; as you approach the blessed with excellent weather the rich folk music tradition of the the mainland and beyond, and
little port of Stromness you get and I saw the islands at their best islands. He stood down in 2007 disillusioned mainlanders up --
a superb view of the Old Man of – their complexion must be quite to allow a new committee to take sticks and opt for the quieter life in
Hoy. The town of Stromness is different in the depths of winter. over, and this year’s festival was a their place – it must all eventually
the heart of Orkney Folk Festival. I had already made the decision hugely enjoyable success, though take its toll on the demographic
If you choose to fly into Orkney, not to confine all my attention to of course no festival runs entirely and infrastructure of Orkney.
The Living Tradition - Page 
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