The 20th Hebridean Celtic Festival was launched with a special thank-you event in the Woodland Centre - right adjacent to the festival field on the Castle Green.
The centre was packed with supporters, sponsors and organisers – past and present – to recognise the progress of the event from its tiny beginnings in 1996.


Murdo Maclennan, a member of the festival's board and one of those involved from the start, recalled the original small main tent…and the concert by Shooglenifty, back again this year, which was held in the Town Hall, with its tiny capacity.
Now the festival was truly international, and performers played to thousands of people, he said.
He paid tribute to the work of finance director Martin Jones; to Sharon Mackinnon, to Douglas Stewart and to Festival Director Caroline Maclennan; and also to one of the original founders, Fiona Porteous who was present at the event.  He praised the support of the many sponsors who helped with money and with in-kind donations.  He also praised the many volunteers from all over the world who carried out "amazing feats" and "Herculean tasks" to make sure the festival worked.
Murdo Maclennan said it was a great achievement that Alasdair White, who was leading off the event that night, had been invited on to the original stage as a 12-year-old by Alasdair Fraser and this showed how the festival could inspire young people to pursue a career in music.
Murdo Maclennan pointed out that it was estimated that the festival, since it started, had brought in £20 million to the local economy…and he asked people to think about what they would have been doing at this time of year if the Festival had never started 20 years ago.  "It's become so much part of our life at this time of year."
Jim Stirling, from CalMac, long time supporters of the festival, spoke of the ferry company's enthusiasm for the event and similar festival elsewhere.  Jim Stirling, a non-executive director of CalMac Ferries Ltd, was standing in for the company's managing director Martin Dorchester who had to attend meetings with the Scottish Government.  He had been at the festival with his wife as a fan of the festival.
Jim Stirling said: " We are proud to support this event.  We support a number of events like this.  The biggest one is the Mod and I think it's fair to say that the next biggest one is the Heb Celt." He spoke of the CalMac Culture programme and the performers Bella and the Bear from Ayr who played at the start of the evening and who were sponsored by the CalMac Culture programme.

Pictured above, Jim Stirling, and top, Murdo Maclennan, addressing the opening event