Dowally and friends celebrate Scottish and European Folk Day

Musicians and community groups across Scotland came together on Saturday in celebration of the country’s vibrant and varied folk scene and traditions for the inaugural Scottish Folk Day.

Musicians of all backgrounds and abilities across Scotland were encouraged to stage live performances and workshops throughout the day, creating a country-wide celebration of traditional music and culture. Over 650 musicians took part in 50 events at locations across Scotland, from Stonehouse to Stornoway.

Organised by Scotland’s Traditional Music Forum (TMF), Scottish Folk Day ran in tandem with European Folk Day, which was conceived and coordinated by the European Folk Network. The initiative aimed to offer a networking platform for musicians and artists at all levels to showcase their talents, while giving folk fans across Scotland, Europe and beyond the opportunity to connect with a wider, like-minded community.

A total of 211 events took place in 31 countries around the world across the weekend, with events from the Faroe Islands to Malta and all points in between. Scotland showcased its cultural prowess in making up a quarter of all events taking place across the continent. 100 pieces of music from 28 countries were also created to mark the occasion and radio programmes dedicated to European Folk Day were broadcast on 26 stations in 22 countries.

David Francis, Director at Traditional Music Forum, said: “We couldn’t be happier with how the first ever Scottish Folk Day was received. It was fantastic to see so many people across the country taking part, getting involved and sharing the thing that brings us all together – our traditional folk music. From schools and community groups to pubs, clubs and iconic venues, the sounds of folk music rang out across Scotland, and we’re so thankful to everyone who embraced it and took part.

“Days like this are essential to share folk traditions and celebrate them together, and the success of this inaugural event has demonstrated the richness of the folk scene in Scotland and just how much it’s thriving, as well as its place in the wider folk scene of Europe – it’s truly heartening to see.”

Rachel Petyt and Dan Abrahams of Dowally said: “We had so much fun making music and performing with musicians from all across Europe for the first ever Scottish and European Folk Days. Between Scottish marches, Flamenco rumbas, Roma Gypsy tunes and Polish lullabies, there was so much variety and joy – I think we could have carried on playing all night. Aside from having fun, there’s always so much to learn from connecting with other cultures, not only the sounds they make, but their approach to traditional music and creating new music. It was a really magic night which somehow found that special balance between soulful seriousness and carefree joy. We are already looking forward to next year and more collaborations.”

Nod Knowles, Administrator of the European Folk Network, said: “The first European Folk Day has been a roaring success – with more than 200 events across 30 countries and special broadcasts across 26 European Broadcasting Union stations. And it’s been wonderful to have the Scottish Folk Day happening in parallel. It’s a tribute to the members of the European Folk Network who initiated the idea, including, of course, our Chair David Francis of TRACS.”

In Edinburgh, award-winning local roots duo Dowally marked the day with a performance at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with some very special guests, and vocalist and fiddle player Mairi McGillivray and guitarist and fiddle player Katie Allen performed a selection of traditional tunes including Gaelic and Scots favourites at Edinburgh’s Holy Cross Church.

Meanwhile in Inverness, MacGregor’s Bar hosted a gathering of some of the best national and local folk musicians for sessions throughout the day, with the free-to-attend event keeping visitors entertained with lively sets of Scottish traditional music, Irish folk music and more.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall played host to contemporary-folk duo Juliette Lemoine and Nicky Murray for a dementia-friendly afternoon concert, while in the evening the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra took to the stage with surprise guests and a pipe band.

Workshops were also held across the country, with music societies, organisations and community groups opening their doors to families and learners to share their craft, offering the chance to give new instruments a go and inspiring budding musicians.

The European Folk Day pilot project was open to traditions of music from any community within Europe, whether historically indigenous or newly-migrant. The event aimed to highlight the importance of each and every European musical community, whilst supporting continued resilience through networking and digital communication.

The event was coordinated by members of the European Folk Network with co-funding from the European Union via the MusicAIRE programme.

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