Singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott, and arts and astronomy project Creativity and Curiosity will be among the headline events at the second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival.

Now in its second year, the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival – led by An Lanntair in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, Lews Castle College and new partners including Uig Sands - will bring two weeks of arts and astronomy events to the Isle of Lewis. The 2020 festival will run from Friday 7 February to Saturday 22 February, with an ambitious and exciting programme spanning theatre, live music, film, visual art, food, astronomy talks, and stargazing.

The first tickets for the festival are now on sale, including special ‘early bird’ day tickets for A Day of Creativity and Curiosity, a whole day of events on Saturday 8 February, curated by An Lanntair with Ione Parkin and Gillian McFarland of Creativity and Curiosity. A Day of Creativity and Curiosity will include Chris Lintott and jazz musician Steve Pretty comparing notes on the cosmos, Karine Polwart in conversation with astronomers, a ‘visual moonbounce’ event with media artist and trained radio telescope operator Daniela de Paulis, magic and poetry with Scotland’s Astronomer Royal John Brown, visual artist Kate Bernstein and Sian Prosser of the Royal Astronomical Society on working together, and lots more in a day-long meeting of minds between artists and astronomers.

Tickets for all festival events will go on sale on Monday 4 November.

The Outer Hebrides have some of the darkest skies in the whole of the UK. Many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula (over 1,500 light years away), the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, can also be seen from the islands, one of the very best spots in the UK for watching this incredible phenomenon. 

Hebridean Dark Skies Festival 2020 highlights will include:

  • Universe (of Music) with Chris Lintott and Steve Pretty, in which a leading astronomer and a jazz musician team up for an evening of ‘conversation, contemplation, science and music’.
  • The Only Light Was Stars by Karine Polwart, an exclusive early glimpse at the the singer-songwriter’s supernova-themed follow up to her hit show Wind Resistance.
  • Creativity and Curiosity, an exhibition in An Lanntair’s main gallery inspired by collaborations between artists and astronomers, to be launched with A Day of Creativity and Curiosity, a packed day of events on the festival’s opening weekend.
  • A brand new Dark Skies photography exhibition, consisting of shortlisted entries in this year’s photography competition.
  • Cosmos Planetarium – returning for a second year, the popular portable planetarium will present a new programme at An Lanntair and across Lewis.
  • Dark Skies film programme bringing together four science fiction films - Solaris, Contact, Interstellar and Ad Astra - that explore human connections across the cosmos.
  • Stargazing events across the island presented by Highland Astronomy Tours and Steven Gray from Cosmos Planetarium.
  • To close the festival, a revival of this year’s popular restaging of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds by Lewis musicians.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is part-funded, for a second year, by Outer Hebrides LEADER. It is being promoted as part of #winterinthewild, a new tourism campaign highlighting some compelling reasons why the Outer Hebrides is a perfect getaway outside of the summer season, with extraordinary scenery and a programme of high quality cultural events at An Lanntair. The #winterinthewild campaign is a partnership between An Lanntair and Outer Hebrides Tourism, VisitScotland, Hebridean Hopscotch Holidays, Loganair, CalMac, Glasgow Airport, Cala Hotels, and Lews Castle, with support from Creative Scotland, Event Scotland and Outer Hebrides LEADER.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We’re really excited to be announcing our second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival programme. We were very encouraged by the hugely positive response to our first festival and will be working hard to build on that success in 2020 – hopefully there will be a few opportunities for stargazing along the way. Even if it’s cloudy though there will be loads to do and see for audiences of all ages. We’ve got a few returning favourites; Chris Lintott, a big hit at our first festival, will be back, and we’ll also be staging a new photography exhibition. And we’re boldly going to new places. We’ll be doing a whole day of events with Ione and Gillian from Creativity and Curiosity, a partnership that has inspired us to explore the connections between astronomy and the arts in all sorts of new ways. And we’re thrilled to be supporting the development of Karine Polwart’s new show with a work-in-progress performance and discussion event that we hope will be a source of inspiration for Karine, our visiting astronomers, and our audiences.”

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 7 February to Saturday 22 February, with more events to be announced in the coming months.

For updates visit www.lanntair.com/darkskies. Tickets can be booked via An Lanntair‘s box office on 01851 708480.