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HebCelt inspires festivals on the other side of the world

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They are worlds apart – but a Western Isles festival is giving inspiration to a tiny Hong Kong community,

The success of the multi award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival is inspiring community-rooted events on the other side of the world.

This summer, organisers of HebCelt, on Lewis, will welcome representatives from an economically-challenged Hong Kong village who will hold an inaugural festival this year to help regenerate the area.

A fact-finding visit is also planned by an academic keen to learn how to make festivals in a maritime area of Australia more community-inclusive and sustainable.

The delegations aim to draw on the experience of HebCelt, which is being held for the 23rd time this year in Stornoway and other parts of Lewis and Harris.

This year’s event takes place from July 18-21 and will be headlined by Deacon Blue, The Fratellis, Eddi Reader, Skipinnish and Roddy Woomble.

The festival is a not-for-profit charitable event and is almost entirely managed by voluntary effort.

Its success has impressed the 50-strong population of Sha Lo Wan, a village in Lantau Island, Hong Kong, which will hold its first music, dance and drama festival in November.

To prepare, Dr Vicki Ooi, artistic director, and Oscar Fung, of Aftec (the Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection), will travel to HebCelt for a meeting arranged by Steve Taylor, an environmentalist and economic development advisor who specialises in developing and implementing sustainability projects.

Mr Taylor said: “We discussed a large number of festivals in the UK, but the one the villagers were most interested in visiting was HebCelt. It was the event that stood out for them in terms of cultural and economic development.”

The Flight FEX Festival from November 3-4 is expected to attract about 1,000 people in its first year, with the help of free tickets sponsored by the Hong Kong Government.

Meanwhile, music teacher Dr Adam Hardcastle will also travel to Stornoway in the hope of applying HebCelt’s success to small community festivals in the border region of Victoria and South Australia where festivals are held in communities with populations ranging from 600 to 30,000.

The trip is funded by the Churchill Fellowship which helps people travel overseas to gain insights to assist communities.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “We will be honoured to host the visitors from Sha Lo Wan and Australia and hope we can provide them with some inspiration and practical help.”

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