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The former directors perhaps
sensibly and inevitably kept a low
profile during the bustle of this
year’s festival. It can’t have been
at all easy to relinquish control after
such a long tenure, but the fact that
the small town of Stromness was
teeming with musicians and visitors
must have reassured them that the
festival is in good hands.
Festival 2008 wasn’t without its
stresses, of course. Lost whistles
(involving late-night trespasses
•An Orkney ‘Blackening’, the Groom-to-be •The Groom-to-be’s Friends
onto Loganair craft after the
offending whistle had been left in a
locker!), missing guitars, cancelled
gigs, last minute musician
replacements. Not entirely
unexpected really when you’ve
crammed 4 days full of music,
and you’re flying or shipping in
musicians every single day of the
festival. Festival Club manager
John Adams’ t-shirt slogan
summed up the festival’s attitude
to proceedings quite well I thought:
‘Let me drop everything and work
on your problem.’
One thing that is both impressive
and democratic about Orkney
Folk Festival is the way that the
programme takes the music to
the remoter island communities,
out into the Community Centres.
In this way, musicians of great
stature were taken to places
like Orphir, St Margaret’s Hope,
Longhope, Harray, Rousay, Orphir
and Kirkwall. Musicians taking
part included guitar legend Martin
Simpson, Boston bluegrass band
Crooked Still, well-loved Scottish •Paul Anderson •John Adams •Maggie Adamson
singers Alison McMorland &
Geordie McIntyre, and powerhouse stalwarts Saltfishforty and The There’s a real energy and spark this would perhaps encourage
bands like Breabach. There was Chair went down a storm on their between them and first rate tunes more creative thinking, and
a lovely ‘ceilidh’ feel about these home turf, and rightly so. like ‘Honk Took Suite’ went down hopefully take a wider range of
remoter events; entire communities a storm with audiences. Another Scottish artistes down south by
turn out to enjoy the music. The In terms of the ‘big names’, Boston- instrumental duo who absolutely way of reciprocation. Sometimes,
logistics of arranging these gigs based band Crooked Still were a impressed were Oban-based to hear the differences between the
aren’t easy, and the festival team huge success – their intense but Anglo-Scots guitar/mandolin duo English and Scottish tradition only
must have been well pleased with joyous brand of bluegrass was Wingin’ It. Brilliant communication serves to highlight the common
the success of these events. brilliantly received wherever they between each other and with ground between the two traditions.
went. They immersed themselves their audience. Their music is
The programme was interesting into Orkney life, drinking the local fast-paced, jazzy, energetic, Other well-known musicians at
too. I was impressed by the beer (especially the Scapa Ale!), full of melody and rhythm, and the festival included Bellevue
emphasis on local Orcadian taking themselves off around the there was a palpable rapport Rendezvous, the Anna Massie
musicians, both in the main islands to enjoy the spectacular between musician and listener. Band, Breabach, Grace, Hewat
stage gigs, and also in the local scenery, and made themselves Very impressive, and a duo I’d and Polwart, Shetlanders Maggie
session scene. Orkney teacher immensely popular in both gigs go and see again at the earliest Adamson and Brian Nicholson,
Frank Keenan was on hand with and sessions. They were in fact opportunity. Moishe’s Bagel’s Dochas, Paul Anderson and Shona
his crafted songwriting, Kirkwall a pivotal force in sessions, and, playing was intense too – their Donaldson, Solas, and the Scottish
Grammar School band Hadhirgaan with two new band members in musical control and aplomb were Fiddle Orchestra. Most gigs were
were very impressive, as were the line up, they took every single mesmerising. completely sold out, the venues
Quarterdeck, featuring upcoming opportunity to play and sing. They hot and sweaty, and the bars did
accordion player Colin Nicholson. clearly relished every moment, and I soon realised that Martin Simpson a roaring trade! There were free
Jeana Leslie and Siobhan communicated beautifully through was the only English headliner sessions all over the place, and
Miller gave a superb account their music. They made a lot of booked by Orkney Festival. His some of the best sessions took
of themselves with a lively and friends on Orkney charismatic, intense and utterly place in the Stromness Hotel bar,
confident set. Relative newcomers authentic delivery of his material led by Eamon Coyne, Crooked
to Orkney like Jo & Roger Philby There was a mesmerising was very well received by the Still, and Dochas.
and Fiona Driver are clearly an chemistry too in the playing of audience. I felt there could – or
integral part of the thriving local Orcadian Kris Drever and Irishman maybe even should - be more It was equally important for me
folk scene, bringing their own Eamon Coyne. This guitar/banjo English folk music content at the to take time to see the islands,
singing and musical talents to the duo proved a huge success and festival (I often think this when I however. Many festivalgoers had
community. Of course Orkney played in many gigs and sessions. attend Scottish festivals) because the same idea, and hired cars, and
The Living Tradition - Page 
Issue80.indd 36 14/7/08 14:53:46
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