The countdown has started
As the countdown to this year’s festival continues at pace, and the excitement builds among our team, it’s important to pause and remember why and how this amazing event takes place.
After 24 festivals, and actually 25 years talking about it, (that’s a whole quarter of a century), HebCelt is, in many ways, a well-oiled machine. Everyone knows what they are doing and when to do it. Everything that’s within our control has been, or will be, taken care of.
However, there are aspects of the festival that we cannot control, which make the task of bringing an international event of such magnitude and importance to our island culture and economy unpredictable and, at times, nerve-wracking.
One of this year’s biggest challenges has been dealing with rising costs against a background of cuts in public funding. We know that ticket sales make up only a proportion of the cost of the festival, so how do we fill that black hole between income and expenditure?
HebCelt has grown into a highly successful and much-loved occasion despite - or perhaps because – it is run almost entirely by the efforts of volunteers.
A business entrepreneur who was brought in to test the business model of the festival some years ago, realising that there was no financial imperative for those behind it, asked the team ‘But I don’t get it, why do you do it?’
There is no monetary gain for those people who devote hundreds of hours of effort to make it work; their reward is to see thousands of people enjoying the event, to witness Stornoway and the wider area being turned into a giant carnival for four days, and to be part of the ongoing celebration of traditional music and Gaelic culture in the islands.
To maintain our success and meet the financial challenges, we will trim our budgets, make best use of sponsors’ support and rely even more heavily on those volunteers.
Folk rocking up in July will not notice any changes in the presentation of the festival. We have invested in the same quality programme as ever; the sound and lighting will be as amazing as ever and the atmosphere in the town will be as glorious as ever.
The benefits will continue to be felt across the community through that fellowship of family and friends gathering and the hard cash that festival visitors leave behind in the pockets of many local businesses; hotels, guest houses, tourism outlets, cafes, restaurants, welly shops, sunscreen stockists (we can be hopeful) and so on. The list is endless.
So, with this year’s festival looming, and our 25th anniversary on the horizon, let’s celebrate the entire HebCelt community; those fabulous individuals who give of their time freely and generously to make it happen, the organisations and businesses, many of whom derive no tangible benefit from supporting the festival, for doing so, the support services who make sure the festival is carried off in a safe manner. And, of course, the wonderful festival-goers who support us in many different ways, be it buying a ticket or a t-shirt or just telling people what a great thing it is we all do. That’s what keeps HebCelt, and the people behind it, going.