Innovation, imagination and inspiration, the hallmarks of any Blas Festival, will once again be to the fore as the eighth Highlands and islands Gaelic arts extravaganza is launched.
A number of new supporters have lined up to back the event which has established itself as the premier event celebrating all that is good about the Gaelic language and culture of the Highlands.
Details of a packed programme of events, featuring top performers and a major new commission, have been revealed at the launch held today in Eden Court, Inverness, which will again be a key venue for the festival.
Blas organisers, building on the outstanding success of last year’s events, have attracted new sponsorship from RBS and Business Gateway to enable them to build the platform for this year’s festival. The event will also be supported by The Highland Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Creative Scotland.
Among the events that will feature at Blas 2012, taking place between September 7 and 15, are a new commission from Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart, a tribute to the late, great Calum Kennedy, a celebration of fiddle fury with Blazin’ Fiddles and Irish trio Fidil, a concert celebrating the voice with Dual, Coisir-G, singer Maeve MacKinnon and Senegalese singer Samba Sene, with further concerts featuring Breabach, Battlefield Band, Kirstan Harvey and the Sanna as well as Linda Macleod – amongst others!
Welcoming the new financial support, Arthur Cormack, Chief Executive of organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, said: “We are delighted that RBS has come on board to support Blas, which takes place in many small Highland communities where they already have a presence and a track record in providing banking services. Business Gateway is also supporting us again and we are very happy to have their support for the festival and to help raise the profile of young musicians getting into self-employment, which is a key benefit of the Fèis movement in Scotland.”
Simon Watson, Head of Group Community Affairs at RBS, said: “The Blas Festival is a great celebration of Gaelic culture reaching many communities across the Highlands and RBS is proud to be supporting this year’s exciting programme of events. We look forward to being part of Blas 2012 in this the Year of Creative Scotland.”
Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry welcomed the launch of the Blas 2012 programme: “Our partnership with Fèisean nan Gàidheal and others has grown from strength to strength over recent years producing the excellent Highland-wide Blas festival which celebrates our language, music and culture. Blas not only fills the growing demand for live, indigenous music but it also acts as a major economic force in our tourism sector.”
Scottish Government Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s languages, Alasdair Allan MSP, welcomed the Blas programme: “The Blas festival has been and remains an important means of recognising creative achievements in the Gaelic community. I am very pleased that this year’s festival will mark the Year of Creative Scotland with a new Gaelic commission ensuring that, along with its use of the language at all events, Blas remains an important part of sustaining the future of Gaelic in Scotland.”
A regular feature of Blas festivals has been new commissions. This year renowned Gaelic singer, Margaret Stewart, has been chosen to explore the theme of ‘The Highland Wedding’, through the ages. Margaret, who is currently the Gaelic Singer in Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and a Gaelic Song specialist for the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o’ Riches project, will draw on her knowledge of the genre and include songs and music of love, loss and disappointment, flirtation, wooing, night-visiting, humour and dance. The concerts will include the cream of Highland musicians including Iain MacFarlane (fiddle and button box), Ingrid Henderson (clàrsach), Allan Henderson (fiddle and piano) and Angus Nicolson (small pipes and Highland pipes).”
Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland commented: “Blas Festival is a highlight of Scotland’s festival calendar and blazes a trail for the very best in Gaelic culture and music. In this, the Year of Creative Scotland, it is simply wonderful to have someone of the calibre of Margaret Stewart working with her great love and knowledge of Gaelic song to bring to life the joy and merriment of the Highland Wedding.”
Donna Macrae, Blas Festival Director said: “We are delighted that Blas will once again feature a range of great quality events across the Highlands and, in addition to the main festival concerts, we have been working with partners to expand the Schools and Community Programme to include Gaelic films, Gaelic conversation circles, forest walks, traditional house cèilidhs, school performances and a variety of other attractions.”
Bòrd na Gàidhlig Ceannard (CEO) John Angus MacKay said: “We are once again happy to support the Blas festival, in particular the Schools Programme which involves children and young people in the Festival. The arts have an important role in increasing the visibility of Gaelic, strengthening its appeal and maintaining loyalty to the language, not only in Scotland but worldwide.”
For more information about the full programme of events and for the chance to buy earlybird tickets with significant savings up to 31 July, visit www.blas-festival.com