Tiree Music Festival

Tiree Music Festival

Marianne Gunn

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HAVING not long returned from the different attractions of Ibiza, some swift re-calibrating was needed to tune your correspondent into the fifth Tiree Music Festival's weekend of families and fiddles. The compact (and currently) not-for-profit event, which is the brainchild of Daniel Gillespie from local band Skerryvore, enjoyed its first Friday night opening welcoming Eddi Reader to the main stage.

Reader, dressed in her Auntie Molly's hat and housecoat, was happy to nail her political allegiance to the mast by proclaiming "two months today" to the independence referendum. It was a countdown clearly on people's minds with the abundance of saltires and the Yes visual assault on T-shirts or flags.

Although Reader's retro Perfect was memorable, the patriotic moment of the weekend had to be Dougie MacLean's closing rendition of Caledonia in the Tiree Trust Big Top early evening on Saturday. Those who assumed the moment would be repeated on his Sunday opening performance on the main stage were thwarted, however, as MacLean stuck to some simple storytelling and a pleasingly easy-going sing-along format.

What's really magical about this festival, however, is the location. The beach at Crossapol must rate as one of the most idyllic in the Western Isles, if not the whole of Scotland. So when a breather from the folk music is required, the mystical white sand beckons.

Discovering some new bands was a bonus. Face The West were fantastic in both of their appearances (frontman Keith Morrison whipped the crowd to a Calvin Harris style frenzy at times as fiddle player Jane Hepburn celebrated her birthday), while Zoe Bestel's crystalline voice was perfect for her chosen covers and talented Leanne Smith bravely battled in a sound clash with Ceol An Aire.

Sunday saw the voice of Brave, Julie Fowlis, headline while Idlewild's Roddy Woomble delivered on both the main and Big Top stage in double denim (as, like MacLean, his laid-back "Calmac Live Lounge" set was moved to the tent's larger space).

Of course there are some teething issues with a festival on this small scale, though an appealing hand-knittedness is all part of its charm. With a mere 1,500 capacity just now, tickets for next year's festival are sure to be one of the island's finite resources, but the family camping section is, in itself, already a thing of beauty. My advice would be to get involved with this music lovers' festival before it grows up. Next year's is July 17-19.