Author A.L. Kennedy, GRAMMY award-winning producer Ian Brennan, David Greig’s Two Minute Manifesto, Karine Polwart and ‘new folk’ act to watch Sam Lee (BBC Radio 2 Folk Artist of the Year 2016 nominee, Best Trad track winner) are amongst performers from eight countries, including Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, Somalia and Syria, to perform and speak this year at Scotland’s intimate midsummer festival for all ages.
The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Beyond Borders’, challenging the concept of boundaries, from freedom of movement and the physical borders experienced by refugees to musical, cultural or political ‘borders’ that are part of daily life for everyone.
Dot Reid, Vice Chair and Head of Programme, said: "This year's programme is shaping up to be our most ambitious yet. Where else would you get to do a singing workshop with Karine Polwart; question the political parties in an EU referendum hustings; party with Skerryvore and Stanley Odd; have tea with the Mad Hatter in the Little Fawn puppet caravan; and think about the refugee crisis all in one weekend? Only at Solas Festival."
Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: “With an ambitious programme featuring some of the finest artists and performers from across Europe and further afield, we are delighted to support Solas in 2016.
“This year’s focus on ‘Beyond Borders’ is set to address some of the most important issues facing mankind today and will provide an enlightening experience for audiences of all ages.”The music programme features artists including the hotly tipped ‘new folk’ performer Sam Lee, multi-award winning folk artist Karine Polwart (who is collaborating with playwright David Greig on Wind Resistance at the Edinburgh International Festival in August) and contemporary Scottish bands such as Bdy Prts and Carbs.
The literature, spoken word and performance programme will feature artists including multi-award winning author A.L. Kennedy, Hollie McNish (UK Slam champion 2009 and third in the World Slam Championships), World Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker whose debut anthology The Sunshine Kid also spawned a critically acclaimed fringe show of the same name, writers Kirstin Innes, winner of The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize with Fishnet, and Alan Bissett who will perform The Moira Monologues at Solas and at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Solas Festival will be part of the Refugee Festival Scotland and the talks programme will look at the refugee crisis, the refugee communities of Scotland, and what can and has been done to help those in need of shelter and protection. Key campaigners will speak such as Inderjit Bhogal who is a founder of City of Sanctuary; Alison Phipps from the Glasgow Refugee and Migrant Network will be talking about every day bordering processes as well as her recent trip to Calais; and real Glasgow Girl Amal Azzudin, famous for fighting the Home Office dawn raids, will be speaking about her experiences of volunteering in Calais and in Greece. There will also be music, poetry, and dance on the border theme including Colours of Life, a young troupe of Albanian dancers from Maryhill in Glasgow, and Palestinian poet Iyad Hayetleh, who works in the currently besieged Yarmouk Refugee camp in Syria.
With performers from Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, England, Somalia, Syria, and Palestine, it’s more important than ever to think about Scotland’s place in the International community. The EU referendum takes place a week after the festival and Solas will be delving into questions of constitutional, political and personal identities with representatives from Scotland’s political parties, and looking at the possible effects of the result. The festival’s EU hustings will be chaired by political commentator Gerry Hassan and include contributions from RISE MSP candidate Cat Boyd; Green MSP candidate Andy Wightman and Adam Tomkins, one of the UK’s leading constitutional lawyers and a Conservative MSP candidate.
GRAMMY award winning producer Ian Brennan, one of the world’s foremost field-recorders, will be talking about his book How Music Dies (or Lives), a virtual how-to manual on field-recording and the battle for democracy in the arts for those seeking authenticity in an age of air-brushed and auto-tuned “artists”. He travels the world in search of artists from underrepresented nations and has worked with artists as diverse as film-maker John Waters, Fugazi, Nels Cline (Wilco), the Vienna Boys Choir, Green Day, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Peaches. He has discovered and produced groups who went onto be the first international popular-music releases in the indigenous languages of their respective countries of Rwanda, South Sudan, Vietnam, and Malawi.
The festival has always been great place for children and families, with puppet shows, family workshops and performances, circus skills, hula hoops, as well as a cinema tent. 2016 is the Year of the Dad, and award-winning journalist and writer Nick Thorpe will be discussing how breaking the patriarchal idea of women as carers and men as workers can help everyone – just in time for Father’s Day. This year will also feature discussions on parenting and childhood in the modern world. Sue Palmer, known for her books Toxic Childhood and 21st Century Boys, will talk about what children need in the modern world and what decreasing outdoor play and increasing screen time mean. Helen Minnis, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Glasgow University, will also give audiences her wisdom on “weans and brains”.
Over the last two years, Solas Festival has welcomed Scotland’s various traveller communities, with Scottish and Roma dancers, musicians, and storytellers performing. This year, sees performances from Tony Robertson and Essie Stewart. Tony grew up in a storytelling family, the son of the late great Scottish master storyteller Stanley Robertson. He’ll be joined by Gaelic storyteller Essie Stewart. Essie is the granddaughter of one of the greatest Gaelic storytellers of them all-Allidh Dall Stewart (Blind Alexander) and was first recorded by Hamish Henderson a decade before. There will also be a not-to-be-missed session in which Essie and Tony will be joined by folk musician Sam Lee who had an extraordinary four-year apprenticeship with Stanley Robertson, learning the songs of the Scottish traveller tradition. The festival also welcomes back Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre who will be sharing their great knowledge and experience of the life and work of Hamish Henderson.
This year the festival will host a number of exciting one-off events and installations such as Take One Action’s Wee Green Bicycle and solar powered cinema and two sound installations. The Deep Sea Light created by Nick Turner envelops young audiences in a marine and coastal sound world where they meet Minke whale, porpoises, harbour seals, sea otters and other creatures. The second installation is focused on Aberdeen Music Halls, a strong example of Victorian architecture and Art Noveau design. The unique 20-month project is being created by associate sound artists Mary Ann Kennedy and Nick Turner, who will be documenting the sound spaces, and found sounds of the building, creating new music of various genres to celebrate the building’s past and future, and working with communities to maintain connections while the venue is closed.
There will also be a special BBC broadcast direct from the site on Sunday morning.