Ahead of our fortieth anniversary in 2023, the Orkney Folk Festival has recently welcomed a new festival producer – with responsibility for the festival’s artistic direction.
Craig Corse, from Kirkwall, has taken the reins of the award-winning festival, having served on the committee in a variety of roles since 2007. He takes the baton from former festival director, Bob Gibbon – who remains on the committee after 15 years at the helm – and becomes the third person to book the programme for the much loved four-day event, also following Johnny Mowat.
A familiar face at the festival, Craig has spent most of his life involved in music. As director of CCM Live, one of Scotland’s leading folk-based booking agencies, Craig represents a number of well-known Scottish artists worldwide, as well as international artists touring to the UK and Europe. He is also a co-director of Showcase Scotland Expo, Scotland’s nationally funded export body for folk, roots and acoustic music; and a board member of Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections, Scotland’s largest international music conference. With over a decade’s experience in artist strategy, booking, marketing and programming, Craig has been an invited industry panelist and speaker at music conferences and events throughout the world – from Canada and the USA, to Malaysia, Australia and throughout Europe and the UK- proudly flying the flag for the Orkney Folk Festival all the way!
A keen musician, Craig first received fiddle lessons at the age of eight, and in his teens went on to teach with the award-winning Orkney Traditional Music Project whilst playing at countless events throughout the county with Hadhirgaan and many others – including the festival’s youth concerts and Fiddlers’ Rallies. Although much more commonly found backstage these days, Craig still occasionally performs as part of large ensembles such as the Orkney Folk Festival’s Gathering project – often with tunes penned by his great grandfather, the renowned Rousay fiddler, Jim Craigie.
On taking up the voluntary position of Festival Producer, Craig said: “I’m delighted to be taking up this role, and to lead the festival through its 40th year and beyond. Having served on the committee for 15 years, it’s a responsibility I’m hugely aware of, and I’m honoured to have the support of both the festival board and committee.
“The festival means a great deal to a huge number of people, myself included, and whilst being trusted with programming an event so strong in people’s hearts is not something I take for granted, I can’t wait to get stuck in.
“The festival’s founding principles focused not only upon bringing world-class artists to audiences in Stromness and across Orkney, but also serving the Orcadian artistic community and providing a vehicle to nourish and promote Orkney’s own folk scene. Were it not for early experiences afforded to me by the festival, I doubt I would be working in music today – and so I am hugely looking forward to furthering these aims, and continuing the great work of Bob and Johnny in doing so.”
Eileen Cromarty, Chair of the Orkney Folk Festival board, said: “We are incredibly lucky to have someone with Craig’s professional expertise and personal dedication willing to step into this important role. It has undoubtedly been a challenging few years for festivals in general, but the huge support we received for the return of live events this year shows we have an enthusiastic audience ready for more.
“One of the core purposes of the festival is to provide a platform within and outwith Orkney for Orcadian folk music – something I know Craig will be passionate about delivering as we enter our fifth decade.”
Craig follows 15 years of Bob Gibbon serving as Festival Director, and latterly Producer. In that time, Bob fostered new collaborations, influencing the creation of bands such as The Chair, Fara, and The Halton Quartet, and created the Gathering – an incredible showcase for Orcadian music and song, which has grown from concerts curated by local musicians in the Stromness Town Hall (now a cornerstone of the annual festival programme), to a huge Isles Gathering alongside Shetland musicians playing both the Shetland and Orkney Folk Festivals, and two sold-out visits to Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
Never short on inspiration or ambition, Bob introduced a family ceilidh, the now eponymous ‘Stomp’ and even a Festival Tattoo – an amazing community spectacle at the Pickaquoy Centre alongside Orkney’s Battle of Jutland commemorations in 2016. Bob remains on the committee, lending 20 years of experience as the festival enters its next chapter.
The fortieth Orkney Folk Festival will take place between May 25-28, 2023. Plans for the anniversary celebrations are already well underway, with programming announcements due in the coming months.