It was first staged in the rumbling tunnels of Glasgow’s defunct Arches arts venue and nightclub, a thrilling snapshot of life in the wee small hours across Scotland as imagined by songwriters, actors, film-makers and writers.

Now the concept behind Whatever Gets You Through The Night, a multi-media artistic reflection of life between the hours of midnight and 4am, is being adapted for one of the country’s most remote locations seven years after it was first staged.

Musicians Emma Pollock and Rachel Sermanni are among the acts performing in a revised version of the project at An Lanntair arts hub in Stornoway on the Western Isles as part of the first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival on Lewis.

First conceived by theatre director Cora Bissett and playwright David Greig, Whatever Gets You Through The Night originally featured songs by Pollock and Sermanni with author Alan Bissett and songwriters RM Hubbert, Ricky Ross and Eugene Kelly.

Actors Frances Thorburn and John Kielty were joined by aerial artists as an audience, seated on reclaimed seats from Glasgow Corporation buses, were taken on a journey from solitary introspection and cosmic rumination to pounding clubs and the hunt for chips and cheese. 

The production was accompanied by an album, book and film and won a Creative Scotland Award for Best Theatre in 2012.

A long way from Glasgow’s Arches, this week’s reduced adaptation is at the heart of the festival programme, augmented by music from Gaelic singer Ceitlin LR Smith and Hebridean songwriter The Sea Atlas, aka Calum Buchanan. 
Lewis-based festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis, whose band Swimmer One collaborated with Bissett and Greig on the original project, pointed to parallels between what was staged at the Arches and what will be seen in the Western Isles this week.

He said: “When I was asked to programme the Dark Skies Festival, Emma Pollock’s song from the album, Dark Skies, was in my head quite a lot. I really wanted to do something with the song, so we used it in the trailer.

“Then after a while I started thinking the same kind of thoughts we had when we were making Whatever Gets You Through The Night, and that it would be a really interesting way to broaden out the festival beyond astronomy and star-gazing. It’s about songs and stories which help you through that time in the night.”

Mr Eaton-Lewis added: “When you come to Lewis people tell you the winters are long and hard because the nights are so long. 

“But the long nights can also be magical. A lot of the stories people were coming up with when we were first making that project were about endurance and survival. So it seemed like an interesting thing to explore in this context.”

The festival, which runs until 21 February 21, includes photography exhibitions, film screenings, expert discussion on the cosmos and insight into the individual benefit of sensory enlightenment through exposure to the dark, with indoor and outdoor venues including the former RAF radar station at Gallan Head, the UK’s most north-westerly point.

Glasgow-based singer songwriter Emma Pollock said the festival’s appeal lay in its celebration of the winter experience.

“It’s so different to that of the summer on the island or the winter on the mainland, and I think for that reason it’s beautiful idea, because so many of us just don’t get to experience that emptiness or that silence,” said the former lead singer of Lanarkshire indie band The Delgados. 

“This is essentially a nod to the fact that the contrast between night and day in a rural community is much greater than you ever get living in the city.”

Ms Pollock will perform her song Dark Skies as part of her performance at An Lanntair, written for the 2012 project as a reflection on growing up in Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway close to the Galloway Forest, one of two Dark Skies Parks in Scotland - the other being in the Cairngorm National Park.

She said: “I was thrown back to where I grew up, that emptiness, that rural space which is so much more magnified at night and is such a huge contrast with urban darkness.“If you’re out there and the weather is good, then what you can see is quite incredible. It looks like a traffic jam of stars, you can probably see the Milky Way when the sky is clear enough. 

“If you’re there long enough and your eyes adjust, you’re never going to forget that.”

Whatever Gets You Through The Night, An Lanntair, Stornoway, Friday. For more info on the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival visit: