Belladrum Tartan Heart 2022 is in full swing, under sunny skies (so far) and lacking nothing of its joyful trademark atmosphere.
The festival also turns 18 this year, marking a grown-up milestone in its development.
The first word of a new festival in the Highlands came in June 2004, when Joe Gibbs and his wife Leonie, owners of the 1,100-acre Belladrum estate near Kiltarlity, west of Inverness, announced they wanted to create Scotland’s answer to Woodstock, recreating the atmosphere of the 1960s in a 12-hour Tartan Heart Festival that August.
Joe – who was 12 at the time of the legendary Woodstock festival of love, peace, sex, drugs and, unfortunately, mud – said the 1960s had a major influence on his childhood.
He told the P&J at the time: “I caught all the backwash from that incredibly exciting time when I hit the streets in the 1970s.”
The message for the new festival was: “Drag out the flares, the flower power regalia and the Mr Fish shirts.
“But if you haven’t got ’em, no matter.
“Come and enjoy magical music in a stunning setting in a great cause in the sixties spirit of the earth-mother of all festivals, 35 years on.
“We are deliberately making this a mellow event and safe for those who have kids to bring them.
“Turn on, tune in and drop out for a weekend in the Highlands.”
The plan was to have the bulk of the entertainment in an area of the estate featuring an Italian garden.
“After the house was pulled down (after the Second World War) the gardens were mostly left alone so they are a bit of an over-romantic ruin,” said Mr Gibbs.
“The idea of the festival has given us a reason to rejuvenate them.
“An old pond area will provide the more energetic festival-goers with an area for dancing while the terraced area of the gardens will be used for seating.”
A couple of months later, 2,000 people, including 300 children, rocked up to see Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee’s sister) and her daughters; Karen Matheson and Donald Shaw from Capercaillie, James Grant and friends, the Andy Gunn Band with Geno Washington, Totó La Momposina, the Peat Bog Faeries, Grim Northern Social, David Ogilvy, the Lush Rollers, Mystik Shoes, Planet Potato and Beats Working.
Instantly dubbed a mini-Glastonbury, the event was a huge success, and Joe vowed to hold another, bigger, better festival the following year.
And so it grew, always family-friendly, encouraging children with free entry for under 12s, and laying on special activities for children.
There are now 11 stages to cater for the wide range of music, including rock indie, alternative, folk and acoustic, plus emerging acts, dance and electronic.
There are films, cabaret, talks and debates, alternative therapy, games and, latterly, fine dining.
It’s even hosted weddings.
The festival hit a high note in 2015, as the Kaiser Chiefs brought the event to a spectacular climax with a rendition of their hit, I Predict a Riot.
The Garden Stage was packed as the band performed their back catalogue, and their set finished with the traditional fireworks display to officially end the three-day event.
Joe Gibbs praised the crowd as “definitely the happiest, most friendly, relaxed audience I have ever seen”.
He added: “The Kaiser Chiefs were consummate showmen and produced a rousing send-off for the festival.”
He said that singer Eddi Reader was also among his highlights for her “astounding” performance.
The Proclaimers also played Belladrum in 2015, after first appearing at the festival in its early years.
Craig Reid said: “We first played there in 2005.
“It has been fantastic to see the festival grow from strength to strength and feels good to be heading back.
“I remember playing the festival that first time because it was a great night, so we’re really looking forward to it again.
“I’m not sure exactly what our set will be but it will include some new songs and favourite songs from previous albums.
“I think people will enjoy it. We’re looking forward to heading back up north, seeing a few familiar faces and maybe a few new ones as well.”
Tartan Heart now has a capacity of 20,000, runs for three days and is always an instant sell out.
The top acts over the years have included Madness, Echo and The Bunnymen, Scouting for Girls, Ocean Colour Scene, Amy Macdonald, Ed Sheeran, Travis, Tom Jones, Manic Street Preachers, The Darkness, The Pretenders, KT Tunstall, Paloma Faith, Elbow, Hawkwind, Lewis Capaldi, Deacon Blue and The Waterboys.
This year sees Emeli Sandé, Van Morrison, The Fratellis and Stiff Little Fingers among the line up from Thursday July 28 to Saturday July 30.
Like Woodstock and Glastonbury, the festival has been subject to the worst weather the Highlands can throw at it some years, but nothing has managed to dampen or alter the warm-hearted hippy spirit behind the event.
Most recently Joe, his son Eion and daughter Jeanie, and his brother-in-law David Fox-Pitt have taken a pizza van to the border between Poland and Ukraine to help feed refugees.
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