Looking Back at Islay Festival 2012

The Islay Festival 2012 ended three weeks ago so now it's time to look back with an article written by The Islay Festival Association and a video with impressions from the Bruichladdich Open Day to get you back in the mood.

The Islay Festival Association: 2012 has been a creative year for the team. The weather was fantastic, a good start. Our aim is to introduce visitors to our island way of life, our culture and history. Over a period of eight evenings and several daytime activities we proved that I.G.T. !(Islay’s Got Talent) in spades; our dancers, musicians, choral groups, solo singers, fiddle players, the talented piping school of James Carmichael, a songwriter, folk singers, clarsach player, pianist.

To Cairdean of the Feis who helped with logistics such as tea-making, serving in bars and those who contributed generously to help us present a varied programme, our heartfelt thanks. The yearly whisky tasting is an event unique to the Islay Festival; Fèis Ìle was your host, shortbread and oatcakes were provided by Walkers of Aberlour along with Orkney cheese supplied by McKerrells Dairy, baking supplied by Catriona of the Baking Bowl. Musical entertainment was provided by Siar, our island’s new and fab all-girl traditional music band. Dancers performed, there was a song or two sung, and plenty of drams were on hand, and 129 Tasting Notes were handed in. Six contestants scored a six incuding the only lady winner, Margaret Ferrer from the UK. One man from Sweden scored seven and two attained eight, entrants from Canada and Sweden respectively. The winner for the fourth time was Hideo Yamaoka from Japan with a score of nine, successfully identifying all the sampled Islay malts. Curiously, he failed to identify the whiskys from two other islands with an Islay connection: Arran and Ledaig, Mull. The Islay connection is Ileach James MacTaggart at Arran distillery, and the malt for the Ledaig is supplied by the Port Ellen maltings. Continue reading....

Laphroaig Open Day (image Wild and Magic Islay)

Visiting acts were delighted to be here; Barr a Dannsa wowed the crowd at both the opening Grand Concert and the Clootie Dumpling Ceilidh. Their designer costumes in Harris Tweed so well complimented their interpretation of waulking the tweed. As well as other engagements, the girls had previously danced on a Hogmanay television show earlier this year. Young and old were treated to tales told by Jess Smith. Storytelling used to be a mainstay of island life, when people weren’t as busy as we seem to be now. What are some of our best loved stories but oral history, sent down the generations? Most Islay families have stories that relate to themselves in some way.

Our national poet, Liz Lochead, is no stranger to these shores. She delighted a convivial gathering at Laphroaig, where her witty observations on the human condition struck a chord. Her rendition of "Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off" was full of symbolism. Second year English pupils at Islay High were also treated to a session with Liz. Liz was impressed by a presentation on Islay’s Bards given by Margaret Anne MacTaggart, whose interpretation of "Fios thun a’ Bhàird" (take this message to the Bard) by William Livingstone showed the power of the poet to get the people’s voices heard. He spoke up for the plight of islanders, which didn’t always make him popular.

As more people find us each year, our website maintained by Lesley Lutomski has been invaluable, allowing us to sell tickets in advance. It remains our ambition to make our ‘big gig’ one of the best in the west. This year’s offering at Laphroaig was well attended, with "Kilter" a traditional Scottish band opened the proceedings with a Gay Gordons to warm everyone up followed by a very long Strip the Willow. Next up came our ABBA tribute band, who joined us all the way from the southern tip of the Irish Republic. They soon got everyone in party mood, belting out all the old favourites. In their own inimitable style the Playboys, also from Ireland, wound up a great gig; all in all, a smashing night.

Queue at Lagavulin Distillery (image Wild and Magic Islay)

In true festival style, our ‘final fling’ on the last saturday saw the newly reroofed Ramsay Hall packed with people of all ages and not a few nationalities. Entertainment was again provided by the Playboys, and Hugo Duncan. The floor was busy with dancers all night as we all enjoyed Hugo’s mix of Irish plus country and western music. Hugo gave us a great shout on his daily radio programme which goes out on Radio Ulster; a big personality, and he was a huge hit.

The grand raffle realised the sum of £1370. and was drawn at midnight by a festival friend from Taiwan. The raffle winner of the festival collection of single malts was once again from Switzerland. The Flybe tickets winner is from the USA, and the CalMac tickets etc were won by a lucky chap from Cumbernauld. The winners will have their prizes mailed to them. Our Jubilee Celebration ‘Tea with Tiaras’ took place at Islay’s oldest community-owned facility, The Port Ellen Playing fields on Monday 5th June. The children enjoyed testing their putting skills and crowns were placed on many heads, to the delight of the crowd. A fitting way to finish a great week.

The Islay Festival Association is a charity we are grateful to our colleagues island-wide who contribute to the success of our festival. Without your support, delivering so many events would be impossible. A complete list of acknowledgments appear on the festival web page at www.theislayfestival.co.uk

This Islay Festival Association article was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

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