Full programme released for 2023 Orkney Folk Festival!

The full programme for the 40th anniversary Orkney Folk Festival has just been announced, with 48 acts from around the world set to converge upon Stromness, in Orkney’s west mainland, over May 25-28. 

Leading artists from the USA, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, England, Wales and throughout Scotland will join 28 home-grown Orcadian artists at the festival.  

A total of 47 events in 18 venues across the county form the landmark anniversary programme – including concerts, ceilidhs, clubs, workshops and family events. Whilst more than half of all events will take place in the festival’s hometown of Stromness, festival shows will also take place in Birsay, Finstown, Harray, Kirkwall, Orphir, Sanday, Sandwick, St Margaret’s Hope, Stenness and Tankerness. Two long-term supporters of the festival, Highland Park and Swannay Brewery, will also open their visitor centre doors to festival gigs for the first time in the 40th anniversary.

Globally renowned Scottish folk group Capercaillie will return to the festival on Friday 26 May, having first appeared in the county at the fourth Orkney Folk Festival, in 1986. They will be joined in an unprecedented collaboration with a local orchestra, headed up by the Orkney Schools Instrumental Service.

The festival’s annual Gathering concerts are a regular highlight of of the programme, acclaimed for putting Orcadian music centre stage in an expansive show with surprise guests. This year the musical baton is handed to homegrown group, Fara, who build upon their 2022 album Energy Islands, by exploring Orkney’s abundance of renewable energy resources and the innovation taking place in the county through an international lens, with musical thoughts on green energy and the environment from a host of surprise guests.

For the first time in 2023, the festival is set to host a Songwriters Circle, with appearances from acclaimed singer-songwriters Kris Drever, Katherine Priddy, Mo Kenney, and Beth Malcolm. Also new this year is a largely standing event in Kirkwall’s Pickaquoy Centre arena, featuring Highland indie-funk-folk stars Elephant Sessions, leading Scottish five-piece Kinnaris Quintet, multi award-winning Nova Scotian indie-folk-pop singer, Mo Kenney, and Orkney’s ever-popular rock choir, Orkney Rocks!, in an event aptly dubbed, Future Folk.

Amongst four days packed full of music, the multi award-winning theatre production, Thunderstruck – concerning the life and legacy of the late bagpiper, Gordon Duncan – will also play two shows at the festival, in Kirkwall and Stenness.

Building upon demand for family events, this year will see the inaugural Family Folkie: two events for families under one banner in Stromness Academy on the festival’s Saturday afternoon, with a brand new Family Stomp alongside the ever-popular Family Ceilidh. Scottish folk singer Claire Hastings will also be hosting two of her Claire’s Music Club workshops for toddlers and carers on Friday and Saturday mornings.

In another new addition, BBC Radio Orkney will host two special Live Lounge programmes – broadcast live from the Stromness Community Centre – with live music and behind the scenes chat with festival artists and organisers. Orcadian duo, Saltfishforty – who have recently hosted their own series on the BBC station – will host their own Saturday afternoon gig in the Stromness Town Hall, featuring a number of special guests, including the reprisal of their collaborative 2010 tour with celebrated English folk duo Spiers & Boden.

A mainstay of every Orkney Folk Festival since the first, in 1983, the annual Fiddlers’ Rally will return on Sunday afternoon, hosted by the West Mainland Strathspey and Reel Society – whilst the justly celebrated Orkney Traditional Music Project, which was started in 1998 to boost traditional fiddle and accordion playing in the isles, will celebrate its quarter century with an appearance at the festival’s Opening Concert. They will appear on the bill with Scotland’s Folk Band of the Year, Breabach; returning local hero, Kris Drever, fronting his own band as he releases a career-spanning anthology; and chart-topping English folk singer, Katherine Priddy; altogether kicking off four days jam-packed with world-class music at the festival.

Orkney Folk Festival producer, Craig Corse said: “With just over two months to go until the festival, it’s great to now be able to share our full programme of events across a packed four days. It’s a cliche to say that there’s something for everyone, however with a wide range of folk styles from around the world on offer – some very traditional, and others much less so, a wide selection of seated and standing shows, expanded venue capacities in some places, more on offer for families and young folk, and even theatre, there’s a lot on offer.

“It’s also great to now announce the full complement of Orcadian artists within the festival this year, who – alongside Stromness and Orkney themselves – are very much are the backbone of the festival, as has been the case for the last forty years. We’ve some artists who have appeared at every edition of the festival, and some who are making their debut appearances as we mark the fortieth anniversary – and not to mention a good few heading home to join in the birthday celebrations.

“All we need now is an audience to help us toast the festival in style – and I can’t wait to see everyone back in Stromness very soon!”

Tickets will go on presale to members of Orkney Friends, the festival’s supporters’ scheme, on Saturday 25 March, ahead of the general release at 7pm on Tuesday 28 March.