Gaelic culture to be celebrated across the Highlands & Islands at Blas Festival

Issued by Fèisean nan Gàidheal

25th July 2022, Bidh cuid den luchd-ciùil traidiseanta as aithnichte a’ nochdadh aig cuirmean thall ’s a bhos air feadh na Gàidhealtachd nuair a bhios Blas a’ dol air adhart san t-Sultain.  Tha Fèisean nan Gàidheal, ann an co-bhonn ri Comhairle na Gàidhealtachd, a’ cur air adhart còrr is 40 tachartas le tuilleadh air loidhne cho math ri sruthaidhean bho thaghadh de na cuirmean beò.

Some of Scotland’s top traditional musicians including Kim Carnie, Gary Innes & Ewen Henderson, Hecla, Staran, Norrie MacIver, Megan Henderson, Mary Ann Kennedy, Paul McKenna, Julie Fowlis, and Sian, will take to the stage in venues from Stornoway to Ballachulish this September as the Blas Festival returns with its annual celebration of Gaelic music and culture, many this year celebrating Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022.

The Blas Festival, which will run from 2-10 September, showcases Gaelic culture and the thriving Scottish traditional music scene over 9 days of events in venues across the Highlands and Islands and this year will host 40 concerts and cèilidhs, an extensive education and communities programme and an online offering which will include workshops and livestreamed concerts.

This year, Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’ and is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council, will visit communities across the Highlands including venues in Achmore, Achiltibuie, Raasay, Farr, Dornoch, Boat of Garten, Glenelg, Oban and many more.

It will open with a brand-new musical commission, The Summer Walkers, by Tain musician Chloë Bryce which highlights the central role Gaelic-speaking travelling people played in the preservation and transmission of Highland traditions whilst celebrating the 80th birthday of Essie Stewart. Born and brought up in Sutherland, in a Gaelic-speaking community, Essie Stewart loved to listen to the stories of her grandfather, Ailidh Dall (Alec Stewart), a much-recorded Gaelic storyteller. Essie is a celebrated storyteller, one of Scotland’s last bearers of ancient, epic tales and will be the special guest at the premiere of Chloë’s commission with contributions from Margaret Bennett, Duncan MacGillivray and siblings Duncan & Rona MacLeod.  On other evenings the concerts will begin with a set from Gary Innes & Ewen Henderson.

On the final night of the festival there will be another 80th birthday celebration, this time for Gaelic singer and tradition bearer Mary Smith. Mary will celebrate her big birthday in style in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, with an impressive line-up of singers and musicians including Julie Fowlis, Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Jo MacDonald, Emma Macleod, Julie Matthews, Pàdruig Morrison, Catriona MacDonald and Allan MacDonald.

Old and new music will be showcased in several concerts featuring music from new collections of old music as well as a collection of brand-new Gaelic songs. Tunes and songs from the earliest manuscript collection of Highland music will be performed on two occasions during the festival; renowned piper, Dr Angus Macdonald, has been working on a publication featuring material collected by Elizabeth (Eliza) Jane Ross, a niece of James MacLeod, one-time laird of Raasay and will be joined by Sian and Ronan Martin

Ronan Martin, Angus MacKenzie, Ross Martin and James Graham will perform music and song from the recently published Coigach and Assynt Collection, the first collection of tunes, songs and stories from that area, on the opening night (2nd September) in Lochinver.  Also celebrating that area of the Highlands will be a new commission performed by Mary Ann Kennedy, Finlay Wells, Nick Turner and an extended ensemble, in Talamh Beò (Living Land).  The stories behind Gaelic songs which feature food and drink will be explored in performances featuring Rachel Walker and Gillebrìde MacMillan.

There will be showcase of brand-new Gaelic songs by Skye-based songwriter and musician, Calum Munro. Tomhas is a collection of Gaelic songs exploring love, loss and mental health and will be performed by Norrie MacIver (Skipinnish) and Kim Carnie (Mànran, Staran) with an excellent band under the musical direction of Brian McAlpine.  Joining them will be acclaimed Highland duo Iain MacFarlane & Ingrid Henderson.

In collaboration with Fèis Rois, Blas will feature talented young musicians from Fèis Cèilidh Trails from across Scotland who will team up with AVANC, Wales’ National Youth Folk Ensemble. Featuring the best young exponents of the tradition from both countries, youngsters from Fèis Rois, Fèis Lochabair, Fèis Phàislig, Fèis Fhoirt and Fèis Latharna will perform alongside AVANC at WASPS in Inverness on the final night of the festival.

Other highlights of this year’s Blas include multi-instrumentalist, Megan Henderson in Resolis and Staffin; Norrie MacIver and FRAS in Thurso and Farr; Bruce MacGregor and Friends in Ballachulish and Lochcarron; trio, HECLA; Lewis piper James Duncan Mackenzie; singer songwriter Paul Mckenna at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness; and Sing Me A Story, a Scotland’s Year of Stories commission and celebration of the storytelling tradition in the Highlands and Islands and the music that goes with it, featuring Allan Henderson, Margaret Stewart, Ewen Henderson, Sìleas Sinclair and Ewan Robertson.

Arthur Cormack from Blas Festival organisers, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, commented: “This year, for the first time since 2019, we have been able to return to our traditional September dates for the Blas Festival. The programme is jam-packed with traditional music from across the Highlands and Islands; both old and brand-new Gaelic songs will be performed by some of Scotland’s top musicians. We are grateful to our long-term collaborator, The Highland Council, for its continued support of the festival and to Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund for additional funding.  We are looking forward to a tremendous 9-day celebration of Highland culture, bringing events to communities across the area and providing musicians with much-needed gigs.”

The full programme of events can be found at along with details of how to purchase tickets.

26 Jul 2022