Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Governments buying Islands

Scotland: The Isle of Gigha gets ready for its 10th Music Festival

The small Isle of Gigha, pronounced Geeya, off the west coast of Kintyre, Scotland is preparing for its 10th annual Music Festival, a three-day event that will take place from 24-26 June.
Henri Macaulay, a member of the organizing committee, talks to Antoinette about the festival and life on Gigha, a most interesting island with a long history and close-knit community.
Henri and her husband moved to the island five years ago, to start a new life. She joined the music festival’s small organizing committee straight away, working with dedicated locals, including a farmer, bar tender, fireman, ferry woman and gardener, to make the event a success year after year.

Isle of Gigha

Isle of Gigha

She sounds happy as she talks about the festival and life on the island. During our conversation, there are numerous references to the strong community spirit, which seems to have pervaded the island and all that goes on there.

“The committee organizes everything, from finding the bands and tickets, to publicity and setting up”, Henri explains, adding that when the time finally comes to get the venue ready and run the side events, locals interested in the festival pitch in. “Once it ends, we start straight away lining up acts for the next year, like most established festivals. This year it is already a sell-out”.
The concert happens in the village hall, restricting the audience to around 400, of which 150 to 200 will leave the same evening. “We only have a couple of acts, because we like to give the artists the time to perform. They come so far to play, so this way, the audience sees two full acts from start to finish”.

A truly cultural festival
More than just concerts, this cultural occasion, brings the community together and offers ceilidh (Scottish-Gaelic dancing) and supper for families, with young Scottish artists, music (fiddle, bodhran) and Gaelic language workshops, an Afternoon Gala and local craft market, open mike sessions for local and visiting musicians and a beach picnic. The programme can be found at:

Attracting the region’s top talent
On Saturday 25th, the talented Kathleen MacInnes winner of “Gaelic Singer of the Year 2006” at the Scots Trad Music Awards, whose work has helped promote Gaelic singers and songs both at home and internationally, will have audiences swaying to her lovely songs when she takes to the stage.
The island won’t rock, so much as tap – toe tap and dance to the contemporary yet traditional sounds of bagpipes, fiddles and guitars of the well-known Scottish band Breabach, nominated for “Band of the Year 2011” at the Scots Trad Music Awards taking place this December in Perth. If you are into the folk and roots music scene, then you are infor a treat of foot stomping and the energetic delivery of songs from one of the most inventive and diverse Scottish bands to emerge from the folk scene in recent years.

Musicians on Gigha

Musicians on Gigha

Evidently, the festival has built its reputation over the past decade and has no problems attracting top acts, despite its somewhat remote location. It also prefers to remain small and maintain a special and more personal atmosphere.

What’s happening on the side
There are a number of musicians on Gigha and established music workshops for the fiddle and accordian, so it is easy to tap into this network and invite more musicians to run the fiddle and bodhran workshops during the festival. A bodhran, by the way, is a round drum hit with a knucklebone-shaped stick.

Preserving a language no longer taught in school, the innovative and fun Gaelic workshop will use a repetition method, enabling participants to have a basic conversation about themselves by the end of the lesson!

On the final day, everyone goes to the big headland beach just 500 yards from the hotel where the beautiful white sands await and according to Henri, the waters are shallow and warm, something I would probably have to try myself to believe! Then it’s time to relax, enjoy picnics and have sand castle building competitions!

Things to see and do on Gigha
Henri runs a craft workshop, where she makes pretty jewelry using seaglass and seacoal. She also runs the Gigha Gallery in the same building, which will be exhibiting “A Gigha Light” – 30 beautiful paintings of the island by artist John Lowrie Morrison – Jolomo – one of Scotland’s best loved contemporary artists, for two weeks, starting 30 June. For more information see: or Lowrie Morrison exhibition, Gigha

For sporting people, all you have to do is decide which way you want to discover the island and then go to the Gigha Boats Activity Centre, where you can rent bikes, sea kayaks, rowing boats, paddle boards, wetsuits and snorkeling equipment. See:

If you like strolling, flowers and gardens then a visit to the Achamore Gardens is a must. For more ideas of things to do on Gigha, see:

The special story of a community-owned island

The island has a very long history, having been inhabited continuously for 5000 years. More recently, in 2001, the community of Gigha launched a bid to buy the island, when it was put on the market by the Holt family. The Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust was established and sufficient funds were secured through grants to make the purchase, with the condition that 1 million pounds be paid back to the main lender by 2004.

The islanders had to raise 200’000 of this under their own steam, which was no mean feat for a population of around 100. In true spirit, they rose to the challenge and through a multitude of grass roots activities, including soup ‘n’ sandwich days, quiz nights, sponsored rows around the island and more, as well as brilliant community cooperation and island management, not only did they pay back the loan, the community has gone from strength to strength, attracting former residents back to it.

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