Across Scotland there are numerous festivals of all shapes and sizes, offering their own angle on music and culture, entertaining visitors from all over the world. Many people indulge in a bit of festival fever as part of a longer break, choosing not to stay onsite, opting for the comfort of a nearby holiday cottage or apartment instead. Some of the more family friendly festivals are ideal to take in as part of a longer family holiday. We spoke to Sam Barker of The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival to find out a little bit more.
When did Belladrum start, and what was the catalyst to start a festival?
After a misspent youth of going to many festivals, Joe Gibbs founded Belladrum in 2004. The myriad of influences include his love of music, the beautiful Belladrum site and the fact that at this time, there was nothing else happening in the Highlands of this nature.
What’s the ethos behind Belladrum?
Decidedly un-corporate, a-political and pan-cultural. Belladrum aspires to be a musical utopia, an escape from the troubles of day-to-day for a weekend of enjoyment and enrichment of the soul with art and culture.
So far, what or who have been the highlights of the festival?
Every year there are new highlights, both big and small. Musically, Twin Atlantic whose first gig was on the GoNorth Seedlings stage in 2008, returned to the festival year after year to pay the next stage, finally headlining with an incredible set in 2013. The Proclaimers return after 10 years in 2015 to headline our new Thursday night was also pretty special as anyone who was there can attest. On top of this great memories, there are many smaller stories from families who’s children have grown up with the festival; starting in the early years in family camping and then finally, upon turning 18, leaving the parents to make the journey over the hill into red camping for the weekend with their friends. It almost brings a tear to the eye.
Belladrum survived, while many of the smaller festivals fell by the wayside. Why do you think that is?
The festival has grown organically over the past 12 years and we have always worked hard not to exploit our fans or patrons – who ultimately make the festival what it is. Also, being a family festival, we have worked very hard to ensure that people always feel safe and comfortable at the event – which can be more difficult at larger events.
People come to Scottish festivals from all over the world. Do you think that’s because we put on the best parties?
Of course! There’s an extra special generosity of spirit in Scotland and Highland Hospitality is renowned worldwide!
Festivals like Belladrum or Doune the Rabbit Hole, seem a bit more personal than T in the Park, for example. How else would you say the experience differs?
They are different forms of entertainment – at the bigger festivals you are paying to ogle superstars on big stages; at smaller events you are subjected to more personal experiences which change the dynamic of the festival and mean that everything you do; eat, drink, dance, make friends, becomes part of the event – not just the main stage bands.
In terms of the smaller, ’boutique’ festivals, are there other ones that you think are worth a visit?
There are so many brilliant festivals today, in Scotland, Knockengorroch is a brilliant independent festival in Dumfries showcasing the best in Scottish music. In the UK, we love Wilderness, Latitude, Secret Garden Party, Bestival & Noisliy in Leiscesershire.
Finally, would you recommend people taking in a festival as part of a longer holiday?
100% – it’s a brilliant excuse for a staycation to make a long journey to a festival in a different part of the land, and then spend a few days after the event relaxing, recovering and absorbing the eccentricities of the local culture.
Belladrum takes place from the 4th-6th of August, by Beauty, Inverness. Tickets are available now.
All photos are ©Paul Campbell Photography