Blas Festival Launches 2008 Cultural Programme

Leugh sa Ghàidlig

The fastest growing Gaelic and traditional music festival in the UK is about to take to the skies as part of its new programme for 2008. Now a notable fixture on Scotland’s cultural calendar, the Blas Festival has announced it will be staging 45 events across the Highlands, including its ‘highest ever show’ in its smallest ‘venue’ – a Cessna plane flying at 3000 feet over the region.

The Blas festival will host an array of home grown and internationally-renowned musicians from 5th– 13th September. One of its most unusual events will be a one man show in a Cessna supplied and piloted by the Highland Flying School. The festival is running a competition for one person to fly over the Highlands whilst enjoying a potted history of music in the area from renowned fiddler, Bruce MacGregor. He will even play a few Highland tunes in this highest ever Blas show.
There are a number of even more important attractions throughout the 2008 programme which bolsters the festival’s commitment to Gaelic and the links with Cape Breton. They include a concert by Ireland’s kings of traditional music, The Chieftains. The six time Grammy Award winners will be led by legendary frontman Paddy Moloney. They will be joined by several guests on stage, including the Canadian acrobatic dancing team of brothers, Jon and Nathan Pilatzke.

Others performing at Blas include Phil Cunningham, widely regarded as one of the most innovative accordion players ever to play, and Aly Bain, known as a supreme traditional style fiddler. Also appearing is multi-instrumentalist and stunning singer/songwriter JP Cormier from Cape Breton, who will be accompanied on piano by his wife Hilda Chiasson-Cormier.

Further highlights include top Irish-American group Cherish the Ladies and Scottish talent The Peatbog Faeries, Julie Fowlis, Alyth and Shooglenifty.

Festival Director Donna MacRae said: “Blas is Gaelic for ‘taste’ or ‘savour’ and this year’s festival really is quite mouthwatering. It’s only our fourth year but we will be delivering a programme of music, Gaelic, food and workshop events that really strengthen our contribution to the region’s cultural identity.

“Blas celebrates the Highlands, giving communities the chance to enjoy live music.
It also provides young musicians, primarily from the Fèis movement, with the opportunity to learn from stars in traditional music. To really get the festival off to a great start we will be offering a really unique competition. We will be giving away 45 pairs of tickets, a pair for each and every one of our shows and one of those winners will ultimately win the Cessna trip. We want to show just how different and authentic Highland culture is. With this programme and our competitions we’re doing just that.”

Minister for Culture Linda Fabiani welcomed the Blas 2008 programme: “This Government supports a strong, diverse and confident cultural life in Scotland – and the Gaelic language and culture is right at the very heart of this.  The Blas festival, building on the success of the Fèisean, will strengthen both traditional music and the Gaelic language throughout Scotland and indeed to wider international audiences.  I welcome the launch of the Blas programme for 2008 which will ensure our rich cultural heritage remains an important part of Highland life.”

The Blas festival was devised by The Highland Council in partnership with Fèisean nan Gàidheal and the Promoters Arts Network. Convener of The Highland Council, Sandy Park said: “In just a few short years, Blas has grown into one of the Highlands’ premiere events, presenting superb programmes, firmly rooted in Highland Communities. Highland Council very much values the contribution Blas makes to the region’s cultural identity in terms of economic and social impacts, its investment in young people, and its sharing and promotion of the Gaelic language. We are committed to supporting Blas to continue celebrating the Highlands.”

One of the festival’s key funders is EventScotland. Paul Bush, Chief Operating Officer, said: “The Regional Events Programme is a great opportunity for events such as Blas to achieve their growth ambitions.  The level of applicants to this latest round of funding was very high and the process of selecting those successful events, harder than ever. We’re excited by the appetite being shown by Scotland’s events industry to continue the growth and success that has been witnessed in the industry over the last few years and we’re delighted to be able to support the Blas Festival this year.”
Information about the festival events is available from the website

Tickets are available by telephone hotline: 01463 782213; from venues staging the festival shows; or on-line at

For more information and photographs please contact:
Peter Kane 01463 871600; 07742 308213;
Notes to editors:
1. The Blas Festival primary sponsors and supporters include The Highland Council, EventScotland, The Cooperative Food, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Scottish Arts Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, Jacobite Cruises, Highland Flying School, Highlander Music and BBC Radio Scotland.

2. The festival director is Donna MacRae and the artistic director is
Brian Ó hEadhra.

3. The Blas festival is in its fourth year. It was created as a result of The Highland Council’s desire to create a new festival for the Highlands which would match the vitality of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours Festival.

4. The Blas festival makes a virtue of featuring home-grown talent alongside internationally-renowned traditional musicians. Gaelic plays a very prominent part in every Blas event, making it a key cultural event.

5. The festival is supported by a network of promoters and volunteers, approximately 400 in number.

6. The Blas Festival will stage events in Inverness, Lochaber, Skye & Lochalsh,
Ross-shire, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, Sutherland, and Caithness.


8. The Blas Festival Team:

David Boag (Development Manager, Fèisean nan Gàidheal)
Arthur Cormack (Chief Executive, Fèisean nan Gàidheal)
Donna MacRae (Festival Director)
Brian Ó hEadhra (Artistic Director)
David Gilbert (PAN Board Member)
Ingrid Henderson (Musician)
Rita Hunter (Fèis Rois Manager)
Peter Kane (Press & Media Manager)
Duncan MacInnes (PAN Administrator)
Nicola Marshall (Development Officer, Fèisean nan Gàidheal)
Judi Menabney (Arts Manager, Highland Counc

27 May 2008