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Missing live music festivals? HebCelt’s ‘hybrid’ event is a step forward

A 'hybrid' HebCelt is being held in July
A 'hybrid' HebCelt is being held in July

HebCelt is coming out of the wings to stage a hybrid festival next month with  a mix of live and online performances.

Called the “survival sessions”, the four-day event is being seen as a way of supporting the local music community.

It will also provide an economic stepping stone ahead of a planned full return in 2022.

The Hebridean Celtic Festival programme, from July 14-17, will include live shows at Stornoway art centre An Lanntair, with socially distanced small audiences.

The shows will also be available live online.

In addition, pre-recorded digital content, streaming of special commissions and workshops will make up 32 hours of content.

The full programme, details of artists and hot to buy tickets will be announced next week.

Islands moving to Level 0

HebCelt was forced to cancel last year’s festival due to the pandemic in what was its 25th anniversary.

Organisers streamed a programme of short films online showcasing new commissions by leading artists.

It featured work by Julie Fowlis, Calum Alex MacMillan, Norrie Maciver (Skipinnish) and James D. Mackenzie (Breabach), as well as Only the Brave, a composition by Rory Macdonald (Runrig) featuring Rory and Colin MacLeod.

But easing of restrictions, which see the Western Isles moving to Level 0 from Saturday, allows its partial return.

Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “We are delighted to return in 2021, albeit with a hybrid event.

An Lanntair arts centre

“We believe that this will be a quality HebCelt experience and are excited to be announcing what we have dubbed the ‘Survival Sessions’.

“We will be having a very modest return to live performances and mixing that with a variety of live streaming, filmed content and special commissions that really brings a strong flavour of HebCelt.

“Following another fallow year, we wanted to do something for our loyal audiences. This programme not only offers us a lifeline, but throws one to the many thousands who buy tickets for HebCelt each year and are missing it.

“We will also be celebrating our local language and culture within a wider programme. The whole team is extremely grateful for the incredible support we’ve had from a variety of sources, from funders and supporters through to festival-goers and friends.

Planning for a return next year

“We believe the Survival Sessions will be unique and help us to build towards a fuller recovery in 2022.”

HebCelt normally attracts an international audience topping 18,000.

Over its 25 years the event has generated more than £30 million for the local economy.

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