London Orkney Folk Festival spotlight

Some of Orkney’s most well known folk musicians have been performing in London for a series of sell out shows spotlighting the award-winning Orkney Folk Festival.

Taking place at Kings Place in Kings Cross, London, the events were part of the venue’s Scotland Unwrapped series.

The programme is taking place at Kings Place throughout 2024 to celebrate Scottish music and spoken word culture. It aims to highlight both the traditional and contemporary arts which give Scotland its distinctive voice.  

Orkney Folk Festival partnered with Kings Place to run two days of concerts, gigs and workshops on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 February, to demonstrate the high quality musicianship the islands are famed for. More than 1,400 tickets were sold for the ten events.

Audiences experienced concert performances from Kris Drever, Saltfishforty, JenEric, Gnoss, Fara, and Orkney Folk: The Gathering. The festival’s legendary Saturday night Stomp was also recreated in London for one night only, giving people the chance to get on their feet and dance the night away to The Chair.  

Several workshops were also on offer for those keen to learn more about Orcadian culture while picking up an instrument or singing. Musicians Brian Cromarty, Douglas Montgomery, Colin Nicholson and Eric Linklater taught local tunes and techniques for instruments including the fiddle and accordion, while Aimee Leonard ran her popular Orkney Folk Festival choir workshop that appears at the festival each year.  

Almost all the shows and workshops sold out several weeks in advance, demonstrating the strength of reputation of both Orkney Folk Festival and the local artists it showcased over the weekend. Orkney Folk Festival was named Event of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards on 2 December 2023.

While the collaboration provided an opportunity to introduce the festival’s experience and Orcadian artists to audiences who might not have travelled to Orkney before, it was also a chance to connect with regular attendees in a new venue.

The festival has a high returning audience each year, some of whom enjoyed the events in London as a bonus Orkney Folk Festival weekend for 2024. Some attendees had even travelled as far as from Wisconsin, USA, especially for the gigs. 

Closer to home, a number of Orcadian expats were also in attendance to enjoy a celebration of local music and culture nearer their current homes. 

Orkney Folk Festival Producer, Craig Corse, said: “We were delighted to work with the artistic team at Kings Place to bring these events to new audiences in London.

“The venue is renowned amongst audiences in London, and across the UK, for a very high level of programming and strong folk programme throughout the year – but also a commitment to newer artists and being unafraid to take risks. Most artists appearing in our weekend of Orkney gigs hadn’t played the venue before, and this was The Gathering’s first performance outside of Scotland.  

“To be able to bring a taster of what we do in May to such a prestigious venue and have a concentration of Orcadian music pride of place amongst an expansive programme, really is testament to the quality of our homegrown artists. It’s them who make the Orkney Folk Festival such a welcoming, community-driven and culturally rich weekend.

“It was very special to be able to showcase just some of that deep-rooted heritage and passion for our traditional music in this way.”

Rosie Chapman, Head of Artistic Planning at Kings Place, said: “I couldn’t think of a better festival to spotlight during our year of Scottish music and culture here at Kings Place than the brilliant Orkney Folk Festival! We had such a blast putting the weekend together and our audiences lapped it up on the day.

“It was such a joy to work with Craig and the team, and my thanks go to them, and all the brilliant artists who helped make the weekend so very special. Best of luck to the team for this year’s festival – I’m sure this mini festival weekend has got lots of their ticket-buyers even more excited!”

The mini Orkney Folk Festival weekend comes as plans are being finalised for the 2024 event in Orkney.

The festival’s full programme will be announced in early March. This will include all the local Orcadian artists playing at this year’s event, in addition to the first wave of acts announced in 2024’s line up.

Tickets for this year’s festival go on general release from Wednesday 27 March. Members of the Orkney Folk Festival supporter scheme, Orkney Friends, will be able to access a ticket pre-sale from Saturday 23 March. Orkney Friends memberships are on sale until 29 February 2024 via https://orkneyfolkfestival.com/orkney-friends/.