A joyous Scottish festival which captivated Highland music fans 30 years ago is being lovingly rebooted thanks to renowned musician, broadcaster, and event organiser Gary Innes.
Lochaber Live, set to take place in Fort William from Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd September 2024, will see a whole host of Scottish talent – all with a close connection to the region – play to thousands at a tented venue set out on An Aird shinty field.
The event, which was originally staged in the 80s and 90s before winding down to a smaller-scale concert, was once a landmark musical event for the people of Lochaber. Gary Innes – the brains behind the record-breaking and history-making Hoolie in the Hydro event and a Spean Bridge native – wanted to see his hometown festival restored to its former glory in a way that reflected Scotland’s thriving traditional music scene in 2024.
Lochaber Live will share a home and coincide with the staging of the Camanachd Cup Final – Scotland’s coveted national shinty final. The event at the foot of Ben Nevis will comprise ticketed events on the Friday night and Saturday night and a free family day on Sunday.
Weekend tickets will go on sale initially, with a special combined weekend shinty and festival ticket also available. Mailing list subscribers will get early access to tickets on Thursday 1st February, before general sale launches on Friday 2nd February. People can sign up at www.anairdevents.com
With a capacity of 2,000 per night and no age restrictions, the all-new Lochaber Live looks set to attract a swathe of music fans both young and old to round off their summer with some mighty Highland hospitality and music.
The new event’s visual identity also reflects the pride of the region, with a nod to the UK’s highest mountain Ben Nevis, and the legendary red tassels presented to Lochaber fiddlers by much-loved local teacher, Aonghas Grant BEM. The logo acknowledges Aonghas’ lifelong dedication to the area, having taught fiddle to hundreds of children across over five decades. Once players reach a high enough calibre, they are presented with a handmade tassel from Aonghas to hang from their instrument as a badge of honour.
Among the acts with close ties to Lochaber taking to the stage this September are Tide Lines. Led by Fort William’s own Robert Robertson, the Scottish four-piece will be showcasing their signature combination of folk melodies and big-chorused contemporary indie-rock for a home crowd.
One of the region’s finest exponents of Celtic music, Mànran, will also bring their powerhouse presence to the reimagined Lochaber Live, hot off the heels of their performance to crowds of 10,500 at Hoolie in the Hydro last month.
The legendary Wolfstone and its all-star bill of musicians were the last band to headline Lochaber Live back in 1994. They will make a glorious return to its new stage, 30 years on from their last performance there.
Gaelic supergroup from west Lochaber and Skye, Dàimh will also play, alongside the one and only Shooglenifty. Founded by the late Angus Grant, son of Lochaber fiddle legend Aonghas Grant, the band’s members include other Lochaber locals, drummer James Mackintosh and vocalist Kaela Rowan, who will see their acid croft sounds celebrated on home turf this September.
In line with the former Lochaber Live’s strong connection with Irish musicians, Ireland’s much-loved Sharon Shannon Trio will also be part of this year’s bill. Fort William festival favourites Hò-rò, Spean Bridge singer and guitarist Little Win and the inimitable Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band, are set to perform to crowds at An Aird as well, with even more acts still to be announced.
Sunday’s free celebrations will provide a platform for local and emerging talent and invite families to join an afternoon ceilidh, allowing everyone in Lochaber to enjoy the festivities, no matter their budget.
Lochaber Live organiser, broadcaster and musician Gary Innes, said: “My home area is so special to me, so it fills me with pride to be rebooting one of the most beloved music events Lochaber has ever seen. It’s only right that Lochaber will once again have its own festival which really reflects the breadth of talent and love of traditional music in the region.
“It’s 30 years since the last Lochaber Live. I played at the very last one aged just 12 at the Nevis Centre in Fort William. A lot has happened in the intervening three decades and with the profile and platform of traditional music now at what feels like an all-time high, it seems like the perfect time to try and resurrect a cultural event that people locally still have such fond memories of.
“We’ve got a fantastic bill of artists lined up, who all share my love and affinity for the culture of Lochaber and the Highlands, and I know they will do a stellar job of entertaining the crowds at An Aird this September. We want to make this event as open and welcoming as possible to people of all ages so I would encourage festival fans to round up the family and come along to what is going to be an incredible celebration. I have no doubt the people of Lochaber – and further afield – will have that tent rocking for the newly restored Lochaber Live this September.”
Founding member of the original Lochaber Live, Benny MacDonald, said: “Lochaber Live is such a fondly and well remembered event. It was a grand affair that was never forgotten by the people of Fort William and created such a buzz about the place, with bands from across Scotland, Ireland, Brittany and beyond coming together. It helped create lifelong friendships and I’m sure this excitement and these connections will be replicated with this new edition.
“There was a surge around traditional music around that time and it feels like that’s happening again now. It’s fabulous to see the festival coming back around and a big well done to Gary for coming up with the idea. It will be nice to see such a big event in the town once again. Lochaber Live is still talked about so I’m sure many people, including locals and those travelling for the event, will be looking forward to it.”
The announcement of this newly revitalised event comes as Celtic Connections in Glasgow plays host to Lochaber: A Celebration – a special sold-out concert at City Halls musically directed and presented by Gary Innes celebrating the special and unique musical talent of the Highland region.
Lochaber Live will take place at An Aird in Fort William from 20th – 22nd September 2024. Weekend tickets and a special combined weekend shinty and festival ticket will go on sale to mailing list subscribers on Thursday 1st February. General sale will launch on Friday 2nd February. People can sign up at www.anairdevents.com Day tickets will follow later this year.