Western Isles prepare for award-winning festival

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Thousands of people are expected to converge on the Western Isles next week for the 19th Hebridean Celtic Festival.

The event – to be held in Stornoway on Lewis from Wednesday July 16 to Saturday July 19 – has become an internationally renowned and growing festival.

And last year’s festival was the most successful in its history with ticket sales up 30% on the previous year.

It attracted an audience of 16,000, with over half coming from outside the Hebrides and the huge influx of visitors from across Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand helped generate around £1million for the local economy.

The two main stages will be on the Castle Green in front of Lews Castle, while performances will also held in An Lanntair arts centre and throughout the rural community.

The headline acts will be Levellers, Big Country and Donnie Munro. Cara Dillon, Rachel Sermanni, Duncan Chisholm and the Magnolia Sisters will also be appearing.

HebCelt is a serial award winner and is regarded as one of the greenest festivals in the world.

This year, it was selected, for the fourth consecutive year, as one of the top 10 UK summer festivals by music magazine Songlines.

Last year, it was the only Scottish festival to receive an Outstanding award from environmental campaign group A Greener Festival.

It was also shortlisted in the Greener Festival category in the UK Festival Awards, alongside nine other festivals, including Glastonbury, and in the Best Independent Festival category in the AIM Independent Music Awards.

And, in 2011, HebCelt was ranked Best Large Festival at the industry-sponsored Scottish Event Awards and it won Best Event of the Year award at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in 2004 and 2009.

The festival, which is regarded by critics, performers and music fans as one of the top Celtic music festivals in Europe, is a strong supporter of the Gaelic culture and is holding a Gaelic Showcase over the four days.

Overseas visitors help swell the ranks of a 120-strong volunteer army that contributes more than 3,500 unpaid man hours over the course of the four days to help run the festival.

Runrig, Julie Fowlis, the Peatbog Faeries and Duncan Chisholm are all in the HebCelt Hall of Fame and act as festival ambassadors.