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North Atlantic Fiddle Convention festival director tells of the exciting programme planned for this year

The north-east is alive with the sound of fiddles this weekend and the whole family can get involved.

Thirty-seven-year-old Carley Williams first became involved with The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention as convention assistant 2006. This time around she is the festival director and is excited about all the fantastic events coming to Aberdeen and the surrounding area over the next few days.

What is NAFCo?

The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) was founded by the Elphinstone Institute in 2001, then there was NAFCo 2006 Aberdeen, NAFCo 2008 in Newfoundland, Canada, NAFCo 2010 Aberdeen, NAFCo 2012 Derry/Donegal, NAFCo 2015 Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, and we’re back in Aberdeen this year. NAFCo aims to raise international awareness of fiddle playing and dance as an art form and a vital part of our cultural heritage in the north-east of Scotland.

It also aims to provide a unique forum for fiddle playing and dance that is celebratory, participatory, informal, and non-competitive. NAFCo provides a forum for fiddle playing that encourages young and emerging players and dancers, as well as new audiences. The beauty of NAFCo is the variety and accessibility of the events – emerging performers share the stage, and equal billing, with internationally renowned artists; workshops range from absolute beginner to multi-generational to masterclasses; and there is a huge variety of free events.

What type of events will be taking place?

The programme has more than 150 events around Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, including evening concerts, ceilidhs, music and dance workshops, conversations, film screenings, free lunchtime and afternoon concerts, pop-up performances around the city, an academic symposium, Days Oot musical bus tours, late night dances, a Festival Club, and more.

What locations are these events being held in?

Our Festival Hub, lunchtime and evening concerts, and Festival Club will be at The Lemon Tree. The symposium, films and conversations will be at the Anatomy Rooms, free concerts and workshops at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Soirees at The Blue Lamp, and other workshops in venues around town. Our Gala Concert on Saturday July 14 will take place at His Majesty’s Theatre. We will also be hosting events in Banchory and Huntly today, Haddo House and Arbuthnott tomorrow, Banff, MacDuff and Garlogie on Saturday, and Glenbuchat on Sunday.

Has the convention changed during its time in existence?

That’s the great thing about NAFCo – it adapts and changes with each location. NAFCo Aberdeen has grown and developed with each return to the region – this time we have doubled the programming in Aberdeenshire. We are hosting our first-ever Youth Fiddle Camp, we have commissioned two new performance pieces, as well as offering some fantastic Days Oot Tours for locals and visitors to experience the North East with a live musical soundtrack, and attend concerts at our out of town venues.

Is NAFCo something the whole family can enjoy?

There is something for everyone, of all ages and backgrounds. Workshops for those who would like to learn, ceilidhs and late-night dances for those who can’t resist the music, film screenings and conversations for those who prefer to sit and listen. We have a free family ceilidh on Sunday afternoon – so even the littlest ones can enjoy the music, and, of course, a huge range of musical styles highlighted at our evening concerts. We even have a DJ night at Foodstory, with some live improvisation by Adam Sutherland.

What are your personal highlights out of all of the events this year?

I am excited about the entire programme. Every musician and dancer involved is a key representative of their respective traditions. It will be so wonderful to see all of these musicians and dancers come together and share their art with our city and region, as well as providing a fantastic platform to highlight the world-renowned fiddle tradition of the north-east.

I am very much looking forward to the two commissioned performances – one is a set of tunes by Patsy Reid that she has written for our Youth Fiddle Camp, which they will be working on with her throughout the festival. The other is #performingresearch, curated by performer-researchers Dr Laura Risk and Nic Gareiss in collaboration with a range of musicians and academics, with the aim of pushing the boundaries between academia and performance – essentially bringing the ethos of NAFCo to life, on stage. Both of these commissions will be premiered at our Gala Concert at HMT on Saturday, alongside performances by some of the best musicians and dancers in the world.

Why should people go to the events?

NAFCo is a rare treat for Aberdeen and the north-east. It is not an annual event, and it travels around – it has been eight years since the last NAFCo in Scotland. So if you miss it, you’ll have to wait a while before something like it happens again. If you enjoy music, if you enjoy dance, either as a listener or if you prefer to get involved, there will be something new and exciting to experience at NAFCo. Dust off your fiddle, or your dancing shoes, and jump right in.

The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention runs until July 15. See

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