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Hebcelt turns 21! Who is going to celebrate?

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The award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival will celebrate its “coming of age” next week with a special birthday present, gift wrapped in Nashville – an updated version of its theme song produced with the help of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Blue on Green was originally written in 2009 by Calum Martin, one of Scotland’s top traditional music artists and a pioneer of Gaelic rock music, to capture the anticipation which surrounds the annual staging of HebCelt and the impact the festival has on the islands.

Inspired by the large blue tent which hosted the festival’s earlier main gigs on the Lews Castle green, it has since been used by the festival and broadcasters.

Calum, whose daughter Isobel Ann Martin sang on the original and will be performing in the HebCelt show Hebridean Women this year, had a new version of the song mixed and mastered in Nashville by respected producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Scott Neubert, who played on the original. It will now be made available as a free download on the HebCelt website


The 21st HebCelt takes place from Wednesday, July 13, until Saturday, July 16 in Stornoway. Runrig will head a line-up of nearly 50 acts over the four days, including the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Hayseed Dixie, Julie Fowlis, Astrid, John McCusker, King Creosote, Breabach and Eddi Reader and her band.

In her first visit to HebCelt since 2011, she will perform at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway with her band – husband John Douglas, Boo Hewerdine, Alan Kelly and Kevin McGuire.

“HebCelt is a brilliant festival. We have a new line-up and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

Her show could be something of a surprise to the band as well as
the festival audience as having built up a considerable back catalogue of songs, she has yet to decide what to sing.

“I don’t have a set list, when I get there I’ll decide on stage. The guys know me so well, they know all the stuff,” said Eddi.

In the past, she has taken to social media ahead of a gig to ask which songs they would like to hear and may use the same tactic for HebCelt: “I don’t see the problem with that.

If someone reaches out to me it’s only right that I ask what song they would like. It can be exciting playing something you haven’t sung for a while, or even forgotten about.”

Singer Julie Fowlis, from North Uist, says HebCelt is a highlight of the year for her. The internationally-acclaimed singer was an obvious name on the guest list for the event’s 21st birthday celebrations.

This year, she will play two separate shows in different venues including the festival opener, Hebridean Women, a project designed to encourage collaboration and promote the music and song from the area, when she will be joined on stage at An Lanntair arts centre by Cathy Ann MacPhee, from Barra, Mary Smith and Isobel Ann Martin, from Lewis, and Kathleen Macinnes, from South Uist.


Two nights later, she will be on stage with her band in the main festival arena. Julie, one of the first inductees to the HebCelt Hall of Fame and an ambassador for the event, said: “Coming from the Outer Hebrides I have always been excited about playing at HebCelt”, she said.

“It is a highlight of the year for me and I am particularly looking forward to returning there for the 21st festival.”

Also attracting a lot of attention are RURA, regarded as one of Scotland’s most exciting and most sought-after live bands, who make their third visit to HebCelt in recent years.

“We love coming to HebCelt. It was one of our first summer festivals in the early years of the band and it really left its mark on us”, said bodhran and flute player David Foley.

“The line-up is always great and the festival is a joy to work with.

“We’re really looking forward to playing this year’s festival and to be playing the main stage on Saturday night”, said David.

“We imagine the crowd will be buzzing for Runrig, so hopefully we’ll get some of that excitement from them, too. Simply put, festivals are the best way to pick up fans – and they are certainly the most fun gigs to do. Sometimes you’ll be playing for thousands of people, and that’s a huge audience for most bands, whoever they are.


“But that’s not the only thing – festivals have this amazing atmosphere, everyone’s out for a good weekend, and so it’s always a pleasure to play them. It’s the best craic.”

HebCelt has grown from a small event attracting fewer than 1,000 fans, to an international showpiece for roots, Celtic and traditional music, generating more than £20million for the local economy over two decades.

Tickets can be bought online via www.hebcelt or at the festival shop and box office in Stornoway. Contact: 01851 621234.