The award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival is strengthening its cultural and artistic links with the islands community in a collaboration with the local university. 

Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, is sponsoring the festival’s acoustic stage in a first for the institution.

This year the university is introducing a night class in music making and also hopes to start a full-time sound production course in September.

Iain Macmillan, Principal at Lews Castle College UHI, said: “We are delighted to be sponsoring the acoustic stage at the Hebridean Celtic Festival for the first time this year.

“Culture, music and the arts are areas which are currently being developed and extended at Lews Castle College UHI.  The festival gives us the opportunity to strengthen those links and to showcase the skills of our students, particularly those on the applied music degree, to a wide audience.

“At our Uist campus, the university is working with partners to create world-class recording and performance spaces and the move into sound production at the Stornoway campus will extend our musical links and contribute to the vibrant music scene on the islands.”

The acoustic stage was added to the festival’s main arena in 2014. So far, eight acts have been confirmed to appear this year in line with HebCelt’s aim of promoting new acoustic acts.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “The programme for our popular acoustic stage demonstrates how HebCelt continues to support local and visiting emerging artists from a wealth of complementary styles and is sure to appeal to our loyal audience.

“We are extremely grateful to Lews Castle College UHI for their support in providing a platform for this line-up of exciting talent.”

This year’s HebCelt, held from July 19th to 22nd, will be headlined by The Waterboys, Imelda May, Dougie Maclean and Lucy Spraggan.

The acoustic stage programme features on Friday Ryan Young, Zoe Bestel, Tristan Horncastle and Jose Duncan & Pablo Fuentes.

Fiddle player Ryan Young is one of a new wave of traditional musicians who won the prestigious Scot Trad Music Award in 2016 for 'Up and Coming Artist of the Year'.

Ryan Young

Having gained a first-class honours degree in Scottish Music from the Royal Conservatoire, he has now completed his Master’s in Music. He has twice been nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, has picked up a Danny Kyle award winner at Celtic Connections and was a finalist in BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

Ryan recently recorded his debut album with triple-Grammy award-winning producer Jesse Lewis and it will be released this year.

Singer songwriter and musician Zoe Bestel is regarded as one of the country’s most exciting emerging talents. She released her first EP in 2012, aged 14, and two years later her self-released debut album, ‘Sir Lucas and the Moon’, was made an Album of the Week by the Daily Record.

She has supported artists such as The Peatbog Faeries, Emily Smith, Paul Brady, Bella Hardy and Snow Patrol’s Nathan Connolly.

Tristan Horncastle, a singer songwriter from New Brunswick, is appearing at the festival with other Canadian artists as part of a visit during the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

Josie Duncan & Pablo Lafuente joined forces at Celtic Connections 2016 and are finalists in 2017’s Radio 2 Young Folk Awards. The duo released their debut EP in December 2016.

Josie Duncan is a young folk singer and songwriter from Lewis and is currently based in Glasgow studying Gaelic Song, Scots Song and Clarsach at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Pablo Lafuente is a young guitarist and fiddler from Spain via Stirling. After studying at The National Centre for Excellence in Plockton, he moved to Glasgow, where he is highly in demand as a full-time guitarist and is also currently working on a new project with percussionist Iain Copeland and flautist Joe Armstrong.

On Saturday, HECLA, Katee Kross, Brighde Chaimbeul and Siiga take to the stage.

HECLA are a traditional music trio featuring Ailis Sutherland (pipes/whistle), Ilona Kennedy (fiddle) and Kaitlin Ross (guitar/vocals). Ilona and Kaitlin, former pupils of Plockton Music School, and Ailis, a former World Pipe Band Champion. They started playing together through their involvement with the Fèis movement.

Currently based in the Western Isles where all three are studying at UHI for a BA in Applied Music, the trio has made appearances at Piping Live! and Celtic Connections; and January 2017 saw the release of the trio's first CD.

Brighde Chaimbeul

Katee Kross, 19, is a singer/songwriter from Bishopbriggs who was a finalist in the 2014 Spree festival Danny Kyle Stage and at the Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Stage. 

She has supported artists such as Karine Polwart, Barbara Dickson, Dougie Maclean, James Grant and last October shared the stage at Wembley with Seasick Steve after her YouTube of "Purple Shadows" cover caught his attention.

Skye-based piper Brighde Chaimbeul won a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2016. A native Gaelic speaker, her style is rooted in her indigenous language and culture, but draws inspiration from Scandinavian music and the driving tradition of Cape Breton tunes.

Skye songwriter Richard Macintyre has been taking his haunting world of Siiga - a mix of melodies, atmospherics and stories of life as an islander - to the live stage across the US and has also toured with label mate Nathaniel Rateliff across the UK, Ireland and Europe.

For more information about this year's Hebridean Celtic Festival, and the announced acts, please visit www.hebceltfest.com