Stonehaven Folk Festival are the twenty seventh recipients of Hands Up for Trad’s Business Limelight Award. The “Limelight’s” are a monthly initiative (launched in October 2012) that recognises the outstanding contributions made by businesses and organisations who contribute, shape and influence the arts and cultural sector in Scotland today. Stonehaven Folk Festival are a popular annual festival who also do great work within their community.
We asked Charlie West of Stonehaven Folk Festival the following questions.
What is your principal company activity?
The promotion of traditional and contemporary music and song. This is done by organising an annual Festival in the town of Stonehaven, along with associated workshops, sessions and outreach projects.
When and where did the company first start trading?
What made you want to work in Scottish culture?
There was a need to create an opportunity to help promote local musicians and singers, especially in the North East of Scotland. With active folk clubs in Stonehaven and Aberdeen a group of like minded individuals got together to organise the First Folk Festival. Following the success of the first Festival it was agreed to make it an annual event. As a committee we are all involved in “traditional” music and song and are passionate about promoting Scottish Music and Song to as wide an audience as we can. We have also tried to make it fun as well (see below).
Can you tell us of any particular company highlights?
Surviving the first year and still speaking to each other.
The fifth Festival was a milestone for us with one our biggest line ups at the time.
The Festival has added some fun activities along the way – the introduction of the Aqua Ceilidh (1996) and the World Paper’n’Comb Championships (1998) have been unexpected successes and very popular.
We introduced a Youth stream to our programming in about 2005 providing workshops and performance opportunities for under 18 year olds, using quite a broad approach to what “folk” would encompass to encourage as wide an interest as we could. Some of these young musicians are now performers in their own right, and there is a steady stream of new youngsters coming to the festival.
There has always been a Traditional Singing Concert at the Festival, this has been a favourite of the Festival and kept us firmly rooted in our traditions. Over the years we have had some of the finest singers from across the UK with at least one singer from North East of Scotland each year.
Although the committee has changed over the years, there is still a core of original members still involved in the Festival, helping ensure it retains its original ideals whilst still evolving and developing.
Making it to the 25th Festival was a milestone for us, with a largely new committee and changing venues and new ideas which all proved very successful.
What are your company’s plans for the future?
We will continue to develop the sessions, workshops and family activities which are key to the health of the music and song, providing as many participative events as possible. We are also positively looking for new audiences and ways to raise awareness that Scottish Culture, via its music and song, is very much alive and fun. We are also looking at working with Aberdeenshire Council to introduce folk music and song into the local schools as part of the wider scope of the festivals aims.
Artistically we have always had a strong Scottish presence but we try to introduce some international and new artists to provide some balance and explore the diversity of what “folk” music can be.
We are also working very successfully with other similar organisations such as SC&T (Scottish Culture and Song) and the Mearns Singers to co-promote ourselves and develop our sessions and workshops.
Organisationally we are a volunteer group with a strong committee of experienced “professionals” with a large team of volunteers. We have a low turnover of committee members, but we are always keen to help new people get involved and manage any team changes.
We are already thinking about our 30th Festival with some ideas on how we might celebrate it.
How will you celebrate receiving Hands Up for Trad’s Business Limelight award?
If successful we will be delighted – an opportunity for us to stand back and congratulate ourselves on being recognised for the work (and fun) we have organising and running the festival every year. We will broadcast it far and wide to let everybody know we are being recognised by our peers. We may also pop some corks and have a wee session to celebrate.
Contact Stonehaven Folk Festival