Naomi Macdonald, Youth Scotland Senior Development Worker for the Young Islanders Network
After a 2-year hiatus from the full-scale event, all the HebCelt volunteers and organisers were finally able to meet in person, and it was magical to see all the island talent in one place of celebration again!
We got started on the Tuesday before the festival when everyone gathered at the Bridge centre in Stornoway, met up with their teams and went up to the site for a first peek. This year I volunteered with the merchandising team which provided me with some great opportunities to raise awareness about the YIN. With lots of nerves, I met my new team, picked up my uniform and, before I knew it, the festival was officially underway!
Thursday 14 July 2022
I’ve never experienced a greater HebCelt buzz as we all gathered at the entrance on Thursday, waiting to welcome the pipe band and the first of the festival goers, as hundreds of smiling faces, old and new, came together in the sunshine! The Islands stage was quickly overflowing as Scott C. Park began performing and Heisk then did a beautiful set, – the first on the main stage.
HebCelt offers many opportunities, one of them being the chance to volunteer and network with loads of amazing and different types of people from all over, gathered in one place – some of my fellow volunteers were from as far as New Orleans, USA. I got the opportunity to meet with coastguards, social workers, radio presenters, local artists, Police Scotland, festival organizers, paramedics, public health staff, and community learning on my first night alone! Throughout, I was looking for opportunities to tell folks I met about the Young Islanders Network (YIN) and establish potential future links to boost what it can achieve.
In the evening, the Tidelines sang beautiful and upbeat songs into the darkness of night as the crowds swooned and sang along.
Friday 15 July
Friday was my first day at the merch tent with the retail team – this cool role offered me the opportunity to speak to the bands and artists performing as they come in to leave their merchandise to sell and do signings. I even got the green light to get the artists to sign a YIN t-shirt!
This led to even more opportunities to promote the YIN and the artists I managed to grab all liked the sound of the network. There was a resounding admiration for the Young Islanders involved and well wishes for the network. The t-shirt was signed by Ryan Young, Elephant Sessions, Eriska, Seasick Steve, Siobhan Miller, Trail West, Damien O’kane and Ron Block, Scott C Park, Michael Mcgovern, and Balach.
Throughout the day I also came across many old friends including a former colleague and 90s indie sensation from the band Astrid, Willie Campbell. We hope to get Willie involved with the YIN at some point, as he represents the great talent and resilience of creative young islanders growing up in the Hebrides.
It was also such a pleasure to bump into Caitlyn, one of the talented trio, SIAN, and Colin Macleod (formerly the Boy who trapped the Sun and an artist who has supported the likes of Roger Taylor, Robert Plant, Bruce Springstein and collaborated with Sheryl Crow). Such inspirational and talented people, all hailing from the bonnie Isle of Lewis, who are now aware of the YIN.
Saturday 16 July 2022
Body broken, coffee in hand and smiles from ear to ear, day 3 was my last at the merch tent and we busily tidied the chaos of the day before as the new band merchandise came in.
This is the busiest day on the stages by far. First up on the Islands stage was Treoir, a collaborative effort of young islanders from Feis Eilean an Fhraoch and Feis Taigh Dhonnachaid. An exciting and energetic set from young homegrown talent, some of whom have been Young Islanders Champions during the pilot of the YIN in 2021.
My morning was made when I bumped into Daniel Cullen from Skye arts and lomairt an Eilien. A fellow islander with links to the YIN and he was off with his YIN bottle in hand. I bumped into lots of other familiar YIN allies over the day, including Bethany Walsh who led on the Cop26 Message in a Bottle, Scott Mitchell our CNI schools worker, Simon Amos Manager at SporsNis and Roland Engebretson director of Macaulay College.
This was also the big day… headliners, Texas, were here and they had brought us a ton of merch to sell. As we busied ourselves unpacking, reflecting on the weekend so far and welcoming new volunteers on the shift change we heard a familiar sound coming from the main tent. Is it? Yes, it’s Texas rehearsing. Brazen as I am, off to the front of the tent I went and for a few minutes I was totally alone with just the sound engineers and Texas – one of the many perks of volunteering is being able to steal these little special moments.
When their set finally came around, the main stage tent was full to bursting, everyone had the biggest beaming smiles on their faces, children sat up on shoulders and the lights pulsed to the rocking beats as Texas blew the roof off. Anthem after anthem, belter after belter and the crowd sang along to every song.
As the show was coming to an end, I slipped out to the merch tent to pick up my bag and realised that Texas hadn’t yet signed the T-shirt. Nipping backstage and pulling in some big favours, the t-shirt made its way to Texas and Johnny McElhone (Bassist) had Tony McGovern (Guitar) bend over so he could be the table for the t-shirt signing! They were so lovely and asked what the YIN was and when told about it they said it sounded really cool and a great thing… Amazing!
Sunday 17 July 2022
All good things come to an end, and today we had the volunteer’s lunch on site and said our thank yous and farewells. A poignant day as it sees the end of an era, Caroline Maclennan (former) Festival Director and founder hangs up her hat after this 25th anniversary HebCelt Festival and hands over the reins to Graham MaCallum. Goodbyes are said, plans to meet again are made and thank yous are given in the bucketload as we go our separate ways until next year.
After a brief chat with Graham and other directors, we hope we will find a place for the YIN champions to be involved in this amazing experience next year. More to come soon…