It’s time to get your appetite for music and food at the ready – Food and Fiddle Fortnight is on its way, as Andrew Youngson finds out
Residents in the Royal Deeside area may have been somewhat confused at seeing local events organiser Jan Leatham strutting about as a human-sized banana in the past few weeks.
Rest assured, there’s method in her fruity madness. She and her fellow-team members from Visit Royal Deeside have been drumming up some noise via a series of road shows for Food and Fiddle Fortnight – a packed programme of musical and delicious events taking place throughout the region in the following two weeks.
Why a banana? Well, it follows the food theme for a start. But really she has just always wanted to dress as a banana, and when she took over the organisation of the event – now in its second year – opportunity knocked.
“People just look at you,” the Inchmarlo resident laughed, describing people’s reaction to seeing her decked out in full “banana”, along with her inflatable saxophone.
“But then it creates the ideal opening to tell them: ‘It’s for Food and Fiddle Fortnight.’”
Running from Friday, October 3, until Sunday, October 19, the fortnight features a series of nearly 40 events running with the central theme, from ceilidhs, to dining experiences, to gin and craft beer tastings, and even rambling experiences, to name a few.
The main aim of the festival, which launched last year with a more diminutive programme of 10 events, was to extend the tourist season into the shoulder months of the year. The idea has been to encourage local businesses and artists to put on events during the time period, which Jan and her team have then put funds and elbow grease into promoting as a cohesive festival.
Given the success of its inaugural year, locals have jumped at the chance.
“Lots of people noticed it last year and they wanted to be involved, so it wasn’t a hard job to sell the idea to them. Most people see the sense of trying to extend the season,” Jan said.
It also serves to “showcase local talent”, she added of the main benefits of running the festival.
“Musically, for example, there’s so much going on all the time in the area. In terms of traditional music, there are fantastic amounts of sessions and ceilidhs, and so this is a way of getting them together in a fortnight that’s accessible for all visitors. And then of course, there are the fantastic restaurants we have in the area to choose from. It’s great to get their names out there, too.”
Among the highlights of the festival is a special collaboration between fiddler Paul Anderson and folklorist Ian Murray at which guests will be taken on a hillwalk around Ballater during which they will be serenaded, followed by a beautiful meal in the Station Restaurant.
Also new this year is a Land Rover safari on Glen Tanar estate topped off with a venison barbecue at Etnach. And for people looking to hit the dance floor, the New Distillery Ceilidh Band will hold a concert and ceilidh at Tarland.
But with nearly 40 events going on, it’s best to peruse the main Food and Fiddle Fortnight website to get the full rundown. As Jan commented, the festival is just as much for local people to enjoy as to entice tourists in their droves.
“I think, for local people, there’s so much there to be proud of and to celebrate,” she said.
“And I think that autumn is a time when people are a bit nostalgic, what with winter coming in. And they think about doing things with their friends, so it’s a celebration of all that we are and have here, instead of going abroad on holiday. It’s focusing on what we have and what’s great about it.”
Food and Fiddle Fortnight will take place throughout Royal Deeside from Friday, October 3 until Sunday, October 19. For full programme information visit www.visitroyaldeeside.com