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Everything you need to know about the True North festival

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True North festival has music at its core and is aiming to put Aberdeen on the map as a destination for up-and-coming musicians.

Now in its fifth year, the music festival mixes big names with local undiscovered artists to create a programme of events suitable for all tastes.

Organised by Aberdeen Performing Arts (Apa) and set to run over the course of four days from today until Sunday, the festival is taking over various venues in the city including the Music Hall and the Lemon Tree.

From late-night DJ sets which run into the wee small hours to family gigs and children’s events, part of the festival’s appeal is its huge diversity.

We caught up with director of programming and creative projects, Ben Torrie, to find out more.

What is True North festival about?

True North is a music festival at its core and this will be the fifth year it’s been put on. It started in 2015 to try and expand the work we (Apa) do in our venues and to try and bring back some excitement when it comes to live music in the city.

We also wanted to put something together which would bring people to Aberdeen and make it a bit of a destination for the whole weekend. The focus is on music of all varieties, so long as it is of a high quality, so it’s not too niche and has wide appeal.

Why is there a need for a festival like this in Aberdeen?

One of the reasons why we need festivals like this is to try and retain our creative talent. Musicians and actors, etc, can only make a living if they have opportunities for new gigs and jobs, that’s why many of them end up in the Central Belt or London, because they feel there’s not much going on in the north-east.

It was also important for us not to just attract people who already live in the area, but also to draw people to Aberdeen from all over Scotland. It’s a slightly different way to spend a weekend break in a Scottish city, but great if you love music.

Who organises the festival?

It was created by Apa who look after several of the city’s major venues including the Music Hall and the Lemon Tree, so it makes sense to hold the majority of the events there. But the festival’s presence has spread this year and we are also holding shows at other places like the Tivoli Theatre and on a stage underneath the leopard at Marischal Square.

The idea is to make a real impact on the entire city, so there are also things going on in venues like Spin on Littlejohn Street and in the Coda Cafe at the Music Hall. There are also gigs at the Big Sky Studio which was the bar in the Music Hall before it was refurbished.

It’s a funky little space and is bizarre listening to rock music in what feels like a stately home.

How long have you been involved in True North?

I’ve been involved since the beginning of True North five years ago and have been with Apa for more than a decade now. It’s been really great to see it take shape and grow. We have people who return each year as well as new audiences who discover us, which is great for the city, the musicians themselves and the venues.

It’s really developed over the years and we feel like we’ve found our groove now. We’ve got a nice mix between brand-new artists, big names, contemporary bands and a hint of nostalgia.

What are you looking forward to seeing this year at the festival?

It sounds cheesy but I look forward to all of it. Each year I invariably discover some new band or artist who I’ve not heard of before, which is great. Though if I had to pick, I guess the highlight for me is the curated concert. Each year we ask a particular band or artist to pull together a series of their favourite Scottish artists and tracks.

This year DJ Vic Galloway is in charge and has organised Rip It Up! which is the most amazing collection of Scottish pop artists showcasing 70 years of Scottish music. I love these concerts because it’s a totally unique night out. This is the only time you will ever see this show – it’s not touring the UK or heading to Edinburgh the next night.

True North prides itself on being quite family-friendly too?

Absolutely. For many young people it is their first taste of a gig or music festival and the success of the kids’ activities in the past have led us to expand our family programme this year. For example, the whole festival starts with a family-friendly gig on Thursday night, Whirlygig, which is going to be great fun.

Another popular one is My First Gig, which is for eight to 10-year-olds. They can go and listen to a band, get a glitter tattoo and eat ice cream while being monitored by our staff. Meanwhile their parents are in an adult creche downstairs. So we’ve turned the whole parent/child thing on its head which is fun.

True North is running in various venues around Aberdeen until Sunday. For tickets and programme information, see