If you build it…

The town I call home has a population of just under 7,000. No music scene exists here, there are no rehearsal rooms, and the local bar ‘n’ lounge would spit in the face of anyone suggesting they hire a band who weren’t prepared to cover Mustang Sally.

In stark contrast, the populations of Darvel in Ayrshire and Anstruther in Fife are only about 3,600, yet somehow they both manage to host established music festivals, luring well-known singers and bands to locations well off the beaten tracks of a typical touring schedule.

The DARVEL MUSIC FESTIVAL celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with 10 evening gigs over the course of four weeks, beginning on Friday, May 6.

Run by a team of volunteers led by wife and husband team Sheila and Neil McKenna, the festival puts on acts in Darvel’s 380-capacity town hall encompassing a mixture of genres such as traditional, Celtic rock, folk, bluegrass, country, blues and indie.

This year’s highlights include:
May 6: Drever/McCusker/Woomble + Heidi Talbot + Iain Morrison
May 14: Justin Currie + Tommy Reilly + Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire
May 27: Aberfeldy + The Phantom Band + Skinner
May 28: The Silencers + Kassidy + JJ Gilmore & Phil Kane

Tickets for all gigs are on sale here.

HOMEGAME, which is organised by Fence Records, also kicks off on May 6 but takes a very different approach to its schedule, shoehorning in 60 acts over the course of three consecutive days, with small halls and the back rooms of pubs becoming makeshift live music venues, while neighbouring village Cellardyke helps to deal with the overspill of gigs.

Now in its eighth year, HomeGame puts just 400 tickets up for sale at £75 a pop and sells out within hours despite making no advance line-up announcements or even having a dedicated festival website.

This year’s highlights include:
Cancel The Astronauts, FOUND, Jo Mango, Kathryn Williams, Kid Canaveral, King Creosote & The Earlies, Martin John Henry, Meursault, Monoganon, Over The Wall, The Pictish Trail, Rachel Sermanni, Randolph’s Leap, Slow Club, Tommy Reilly and Withered Hand. Full schedule here.

Last year the Fence team held Away Game (check out this stunning video footage) on the island of Eigg (population 70), and in the past three days the Knoydart Festival took place in one of the remotest areas in mainland Scotland – Knoydart (population 100) is only accessible by sea or a 16-mile rough track.

Tickets for both events sold out well in advance, so it just goes to show that a little ambition and a lot of enthusiasm can transform even the most modest communities into music festival hubs.

Tommy Reilly – Grab Me By The Collar

Over The Wall – Shifts

Slow Club – Let’s Fall Back In Love

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