Orkney Folk Festival opens to record breaking sales

The award-winning Orkney Folk Festival opens today, Thursday, following record breaking ticket sales for the 41stedition of the event.

More than 8,300 tickets have sold for the four-day island festival, an uplift on the previous record set in 2023. Almost 600 people have also signed up for the festival’s free digital pass, allowing virtual audience members to stream three events between Friday 24 and Sunday 26 May.

Orkney Folk Festival is one of Scotland’s longest-running folk festivals, and the current MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards Event of the Year. 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.

Contemporary Canadian folk/pop band The East Pointers are appearing as part of their tenth anniversary celebrations, their first appearance at a Scottish festival in recent years.

They’re joined by no less than four other Canadian acts: Quebecois trio Genticorum, and three diverse acts from Newfoundland, Rum RaggedQuote the Raven, and Mallory Johnson, as the province celebrates its Year of the Arts in 2024

Transatlantic connections are also being celebrated with the appearances of banjo prodigy Nora Brown with Stephanie Coleman, country artist Brennen Leigh, and quartet Corner House, featuring Orphir’s own Louise Bichan heading home for the festival. 

Long-time musical collaborators Michael McGoldrick  and John McCusker  are joined for one weekend only by Orcadian  Kris Drever, combining the talents of three heavyweights in the UK folk scene.

The festival is also be joined by legendary Irish musicians, Mairtín 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.

One of Orkney’s most famed musicians, Ivan Drever, has returned home to the festival from his base in Norway. The isles’ Nordic links are also celebrated with master Hardanger fiddle player, Alexander Aga Røystrand, making his first appearance at the event.

The title of furthest traveled act has gone to Australia’s sister duo, Charm of Finches, who bring their intricate and bewitching folk-pop to the islands, while Jack Rutter  takes folk, roots and acoustic music from Yorkshire following the recent release of his new album.

From Scotland, audiences can look forward to seeing multi-award winners, RURA,  chamber-folk quartet RANT  and Californian-based Scottish fiddle master, Alasdair Fraser in his partnership with acclaimed cellist, Natalie Haas. 

Folk singer and songwriter Claire Hastings  has returned for the second year in a row, while BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award finalist, Ryan Young, adds his distinctive sound on the fiddle to the line up. 

Award-winning singer Hannah Rarity offers a mix of traditional, contemporary and self-penned material, while Rachel Hair & Ron Jappy create a fiery duo combining the Scottish harp and guitar with electrifying results.

Assynt will combine tight-knit fiddle and pipe playing with intricate guitar grooves, while The Glencraig Scottish Dance Band will invite dancers to take the floor at ceilidhs in the county.

JenEric, featuring Jen Austin and Eric Linklater, return to the festival following their nomination for Original Work of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards.

Local award-winning folk fiddler Jennifer Wrigley also appears with fellow Orcadian musician, Laurence Wilson, who has returned to the stage following a lengthy break pursuing a worldwide backstage career.

Audiences can look forward to seeing Saltfishforty ahead of an expected new album in 2024, while the newest generation of Orkney’s folk talent, Auskerry, make their debut appearance at the festival.

And, of course, no Orkney Folk Festival line up would be complete without Saturday Stomp favourites, The Chair, who will be celebrating their 20th anniversary at the festival, having formed for the 2004 event.

The 2024 festival features 52 events, including concerts, ceilidhs, lounge performances, workshops, talks and family events, at venues across Orkney. While more than half of all events are taking 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.

There is still good availability for the events happening across Orkney between 23 and 26 May 2024. Live availability can be found online at https://orkneyfolkfestival.com/tickets. Virtual audience members can also sign up for the free digital streaming pass at https://tickets.orkneyfolkfestival.com/digitalpass.

In addition to the festival’s public programme, Orkney’s schoolchildren can look forward to experiencing performances from artists visiting the festival, while musicians will also entertain care home residents over the weekend.

The festival gratefully receives generous support from public bodies and corporate sponsors, from throughout the local and national business communities – without whom the festival could not exist. This year’s principal supporters are Orkney Islands Council, The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, EventScotland and NorthLink Ferries, alongside a wide range of individual event sponsors.

The festival also benefits from many thousands of hours donated by hundreds of volunteers, who give their time freely to bring the world-renowned event together. From the year round management committee and board, to those delivering individual events, each one of the festival’s community team is vital to its long standing, continued and increasing success.

Orkney Folk Festival Producer, Craig Corse said: “We can’t wait to raise the curtain on the 41st Orkney Folk Festival, tonight – yet again enjoying record sales as we welcome visitors from far and wide to the county, alongside audiences from across Orkney.

“Although enjoying another bumper year of attendance, it’s not too late for folk to join us – and with a broad programme from intimate and acoustic gigs in the Stromness Kirk, to large scale productions with legendary musicians in Kirkwall’s Pickaquoy Centre, there’s plenty to take everyone’s fancy. From the more traditional gigs like the Fiddlers’ Rally and Saturday night’s dance in Stenness, to a mid-morning talk celebrating the musical legacy and upbringing of Martyn Bennett – one of Scotland’s most revered pioneers in fusing folk with contemporary influences – and late night cabaret lounge gigs, there’s a gig, style and time for everyone.

“We’re also delighted to present a number of new, young Orcadian artists at the festival this year, for the first time – alongside legendary acts from various corners of the folk world, who are heading our way for the weekend; some returning favourites, some brand new to the festival and indeed Orkney, who I am sure will be taken in by the festival and islands unique, award-winning charm.

“Whether tentatively waiting for their debut set, unsure of what lies beyond the curtain, or proudly flying the flag for the folkies of Scotland, England, Ireland, Norway, Canada, the USA or Australia, everyone is most welcome. Within these tough times, we need festivals and shared live experiences more than ever – so whether this is your first or 41st festival with us, let’s have a tune, sing, dance, laugh, cry, and grab it with both hands.”

Siobhan Anderson, Music Officer at Creative Scotland says: “The 2024 Orkney Folk Festival promises another year of exceptional music. With performances from national and international artists, as well as local talent, this vibrant community event celebrates Scotland’s rich musical heritage. Locals and visitors alike are in for a treat!”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “As one of Scotland longest running folk festivals, EventScotland is proud to be continuing its support of the Orkney Folk Festival through our National Events Programme.

“Events play a key role in our communities, providing the chance to connect, enjoy and share memorable experiences. With its diverse line up of local, national and international artists, the Orkney Folk Festival offers a wonderful four days of contemporary and traditional folk music for everyone to enjoy.”