An island ferry will become a floating ceilidh for thousands of music fans heading to this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival.
CalMac Ferries, operators of the Ullapool-Stornoway service, have agreed a new, three-year sponsorship deal with the internationally-renowned HebCelt, which is being held for the 24th time in Lewis and Harris this summer.
During festival week, from 17-20 July, the ‘Loch Seaforth’ will be re-named the ‘HebCelt Ferry’ and will have a pop-up information and tickets office on board and also a festival-themed menu in its restaurant.
To mark the start of HebCelt 2019, and get visitors in the mood for the four-day event, music sessions featuring a trio of musicians from Fèis Rois, the Gaelic arts and music organisation, will be held on board the ferry sailing from Ullapool at 10.30am and returning from Stornoway at 2pm on both Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 July.
The young musicians, including graduates from Fèis Rois’s performance group, The Kiltearn Fiddlers, are Iain-Gordon Macfarlane, from Ullapool, (fiddle); Charlotte Taylor, from Strathpeffer, (fiddle) and Sean Clark. from Evanton, (guitar)
CalMac has a long association with HebCelt and this year the company will be more ‘hands-on’ with four senior members of staff signing up to join the volunteer army that helps keep the festival running.
David Gibson, CalMac’s Service Delivery Director; Andrew Macnair, the Head of Marketing; Clare MacNeill, Manager of the company’s Tour Shop in Fort William; and Shona Acford, the Port Manager in Oban, will be helping with duties ranging from ticket collection to keeping the site clean.
Andrew Macnair said: “HebCelt is an international event that brings thousands of people to Stornoway and the islands each year, with most of them arriving by ferry.
“It’s great for us to continue our long-standing relationship with the festival and help it grow. By volunteering this year we will get a chance to be even more involved and support an event that means so much to the communities we serve.“
Festival Director Caroline Maclennan said: “CalMac has been an outstanding supporter of the festival for nearly all its 24 years and we are delighted we can rely on them for some time to come.
“The sight of ferries bringing in much of our audience and talent is such an important part of the week and having musicians playing on board seemed to be a natural extension of the festival.“
Fiona Dalgetty, Chief Executive of Fèis Rois, said: “Fèis Rois is well known for its music courses, festivals and events throughout the year in Ullapool. We are delighted to make this connection with CalMac and HebCelt to provide musicians on the ferry in the run up to the festival.
“It is a brilliant opportunity for our young musicians to play to new audiences, and for audiences to enjoy music as soon as they set sail from the mainland.“