Launching our 2024 programme

Orkney Folk Festival has announced its full programme for the 2024 event, with acts from around the world set to perform across the islands between 23 and 26 May.

Leading artists from Canada, the USA, Australia, Ireland, Norway, England and throughout Scotland will join home-grown Orcadian musicians at the festival in its 41st year.

The programme features 52 events, including concerts, ceilidhs, lounge performances, workshops, talks and family events, at venues across Orkney. It’s been designed to offer something for everyone, to celebrate both local and visiting artists, as well as contemporary and traditional folk music.

While more than half of all events will take place in the festival’s hometown of Stromness, performances are also planned in Birsay, Finstown, Harray, Holm, Kirkwall, Orphir, Sanday, Sandwick, St Margaret’s Hope, Stenness and Tankerness.

This year’s festival offers a diverse line up. Audiences can look forward to performances from visiting artists including The East Pointers, who make their first UK festival appearance in recent years. Long-time musical collaborators Michael McGoldrick and John McCusker will be joined for one weekend only by Orcadian Kris Drever, combining the talents of three heavyweights in the UK folk scene.

The festival will also include legendary Irish musicians, Máirtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, and Seamie O’Dowd, as well as the rarely seen live Dòchas, featuring Julie Fowlis, Jenna Reid, Kathleen Boyle, Carol-Anne MacKay, Eilidh MacLeod and Martin O’Neill.

The popular Gathering concert returns, with this year’s event a tribute to Orcadian musician, Billy Jolly, following his passing in February. Billy was a well known and much loved face at the festival, having performed regularly as part of the Gathering and with the band, Hullion. Directed by Douglas Montgomery (of Saltfishforty and The Chair), and hosted by Billy’s Hullion band mate, Andy Cant, this year’s Gathering celebrates Billy’s musical legacy, with songs and tunes from folks who played with him over the years and knew him best.

Giving families the chance to enjoy folk music together continues to be at the heart of the festival’s offering. Claire’s Music Club workshops return for babies and toddlers, offering interactive sessions of songs, rhymes, actions, instruments, movement and performance. Last year’s popular Family Folkie also returns to Stromness Academy on Saturday afternoon – providing a family-friendly Stomp as well as traditional dancing in the Family Ceilidh. These events are in addition to the long running Orkney Folk Festival school visit progrmame, which gives local children the chance to experience performances from visiting artists on the Thursday and Friday of the festival each year.

For adults looking to get on their feet, the festival continues to offer its popular Friday and Saturday night Stomps. The Chair celebrates its 20th anniversary at the Saturday edition this year, having originally formed for the 2004 festival. Those looking for traditional dancing can also take the floor at the Stenness Dance or Sanday Ceilidh.

This year’s event features two talks from Margaret Bennett, the singer and author who is widely regarded as ‘Scotland’s foremost folklorist’. As well as talking about the connections between Newfoundland – where three artists from the 2024 festival, Mallory Johnson, Quote the Raven and Rum Ragged, hail from – and Scotland, she will share a personal account of the work her late son, Martyn Bennett. Martyn was one of Scotland’s most prodigiously gifted musicians until his untimely death at the age of 33. Margaret will celebrate his life by sharing a collection of memories and music, as well as previously unreleased recordings.

Graham Rorie returns to the festival as a soloist this year, to launch a new tunebook. It features music from ‘The Orcadians of Hudson Bay’, which he performed at the 2022 festival, as well as tunes from Gnoss albums.

Those looking to get involved in making music throughout the weekend can book tickets for workshops teaching Orkney fiddle, bodhran, fiddle and cello, and bluegrass music, led by Jennifer Wrigley, David Foley, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, and Ethan Setiawan respectively. The popular Orkney Festival Choir also returns over the course of the weekend, delivered by Stromness’s Aimee Leonard.

Orkney Folk Festival producer, Craig Corse said: “With just over two months to go until curtain up, we’re excited to unveil the full programme of events in store at the 41st Orkney Folk Festival.

“There’s a lot on offer over just four days – with event formats to hopefully suit all tastes, from acoustic concerts and large scale productions, to late night dances and cabaret lounge gigs. We’re delighted to welcome talks back to the festival programme, and to have added even more for families; not only with gigs specifically with the wee ones in mind, but with heavily reduced ticket prices for children.

“We’ve a line-up comprising a heady mix of household names alongside much newer artists from around the world, and a number of new Orcadian artists taking to the festival stages for the first time this year. Whether tentatively waiting for their debut set, or proudly flying the flag for the folkies of Canada, Australia, the USA, Norway, Ireland, England or Scotland, everyone is most welcome.

“Whether attending just the one show, filling the weekend with 10 or more, or joining us for the first or 41st time, we can’t wait to welcome audiences from far and wide, and across Orkney, to the festival for another great weekend.”

Tickets will go on pre-sale to members of Orkney Friends, the festival’s supporter scheme, on Saturday 23 March, ahead of the general release at 7pm GMT on Wednesday 27 March.