When the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival first began in 1993, it was no easy feat to attract world class musicians to the coastal town of Portsoy in Aberdeenshire. Twenty years on, and thanks to volunteer Bob Philips, the Festival acts as a platform for local and international traditional musicians who relish the opportunity to perform in front of 16,000 visitors.
This year’s Festival takes place over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd June, and once again the event’s very own Mr Music has pulled out all the stops to attract top acts from as far afield as Australia and the Netherlands.
When 59 year old Bob retired four years ago, the last thing he imagined himself doing was gazing in awe as hundreds of Festival goers danced in their wellies around Portsoy harbour to the stirring sounds of traditional folk music.
Bob explains, “When I retired from my career as a customs officer, I never wanted to spend the rest of my years in the comfort of an arm chair, much of what I do is from the comfort of my armchair, armed with a laptop. I have always loved traditional music, from Irish ceilidhs’ to bothy ballads and folk. There’s just something about the rhythm that brings people to life and I wanted to bring that element into the Festival.”
Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival is one of the region’s flagship tourist events, bringing together traditional boats from all over the UK and beyond. Over the years the event has expanded to include the best in Scotland’s crafts, food, drink, music as well as all things nautical.
“I like to provide a platform for as many local musicians as possible, the introduction of Folk Club Stage and emphasis on youth in the marquee on Saturdays, have helped towards this end. Over the past three years, the Festival has become renowned as a mecca for musicians. This year, to accommodate the growing popularity of the Festival, we have secured the bowling club as an extra venue for artists to play in an informal open mic event.”
Archie Fisher – one of Scotland’s most popular folk singers and former presenter of BBC’s Travelling Folk - will headline the Friday Showcase Concert on the eve of the Festival. He will also be hosting An Audience with Archie, where he will talk about his passion for traditional music and his days on the road.
Support acts for the gig – which is always well attended - have been confirmed as the internationally celebrated shanty band Kimbers Men, and local group The Lennox Family, who will host the evening.
“I am very proud of the wealth of acts that the Festival has to offer this year. In order to secure international acts, I liaise with a number of agents and help to get gigs in the north east, which helps make top acts affordable. For the third year, and travelling all the way from Etten Leur, are the blues and jazz musicians De Kinkels, renowned for their energetic shows and getting the crowds involved” says Bob.
“As always, I am delighted to welcome back the Australian folk trio MOT - Munro, O’Callaghan and Titchener – who will entertain festival-goers with their harmonies on the Friday night. The Adelaide-based group are recognised as one of Australia’s leading traditional music acts and have a worldwide following.”
Other performers who will be taking to the harbour stage – and street corners all over the festival site – over the weekend include folk singers Arthur Watson and Danny Couper and Carole Anderson who will lead established and new informal sessions and sing arounds, The Spiers Family, Fisher Folk, Ron Gardiner, The Cast, Bridge The Gap, Mike Blackburn and many others.
Festival-goers who truly want to get into the maritime spirit should take up the opportunity to learn sea shanties at a workshop led by Kimbers Men on the Saturday and the chance to perform a ‘maritime work song’ on stage on the Sunday.
Bob adds, “The event has developed an excellent reputation of bringing the very best of traditional music acts to Portsoy, and many enthusiasts come to the Festival specifically for the music.
“In many ways the Festival has become nearly as famous for its musical entertainment as it has for its boats. We feel incredibly proud to be able to attract such huge names in the world of traditional music and to be able to put on such a wonderful show for our visitors.”
For more information about the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival – a key event in the Year of Natural Scotland - and to buy tickets, visit www.stbfportsoy.com
Updates about this year’s festival are also available on Facebook and Twitter – search for @STBFestival
An adult day ticket costs £8, children aged five to 18 and concessions are £5. Adult weekend tickets are priced at £12 and children and concessions at £8. There are also family tickets available which allow entry for two adults and three children for £25 for a day ticket and £35 for a weekend. Children under five go free and there is no charge for parking.