One of Courier Country’s most niche festivals is set to return next month.
The Perthshire-based Solas event is normally staged over midsummer weekend in June, but was forced by the lockdown to move online last year.
This time round, festival organisers have decided to go ahead with a much smaller version of Solas, dubbed “Wee Solas”, for an expected one time only in the grounds of Scone Palace.
Among the acts due to appear at the all-ages event are Rachel Sermanni, Randolph’s Leap, Suzanne Butler, the Fergus McCreadie Trio and Brass, Eye.
The historic Perth landmark hosted the massive Rewind Scotland retro extravaganza from 2011 up to two years ago, and has also seen big gigs by the likes of Runrig taking place on its lawns down the years.
With Rewind being axed for the second year running due to the pandemic, Solas represents a welcome return of live music to Scone Palace, albeit on a far smaller scale.
The ultra-bijou Wee Solas will see little more than 200 revellers descending on the scenic venue per day over the weekend of August 21 and 22.
Growing talent – and awareness
Started in 2009, Solas has been held for much of its existence in Perthshire, initially at the Bield at Blackruthven, by Tibbermore, and for the first time in 2019 at Errol Park.
Known for its social consciousness and for being a platform for debate around spiritual and environmental issues, as much as for its rock, folk and hip hop performances, the event will also this year include its usual workshops across various art forms, plus talks and discussions.
Comprising a mix of homegrown artists and some of the best immigrant talents in Scotland today, the Solas music line-up is topped next month by Strathspey contemporary folk songsmith Rachel Sermanni on the Saturday and Glasgow indie-pop eight-piece Randolph’s Leap on the Sunday.
The opening day also features sets from the world music collective Glasgow African Balafron Orchestra, trad fusion outfit DLU and East Lothian singer-songwriter Suzanne Butler, as well as Diana Gabrielle, Think Circus and Sean Wai Keung.
There’s an equally diverse supporting cast on the Sunday, including Celtic swing/ funk groovers Fergus McCreadie Trio, acclaimed brass streetband Brass, Eye?, violin and pedal harp duo Twelfth Day, The Barrow Band and Iranian musician Aref Ghorbani with friends.
‘Confident that we will be happening’
Despite physical distancing remaining as an issue while restrictions persist in Scotland, Solas organisers are upbeat about the prospects of the festival taking place as planned.
A spokesperson said yesterday: “Larger festivals have been cancelling in the last couple of days and we really are confident that we will be happening, for sure, because it’s a much smaller scale thing.
We’re only going to have an audience of about 200 per day so hopefully everybody can feel quite safe and comfortable coming as well because that’s the thing at the moment, people have very different levels of anxiety about the whole situation with the virus.”
Looking further ahead, she expressed hopes that Solas can make a return to its Carse of Gowrie base in 2022. “It is a temporary thing to be at Scone this year, added the spokesperson.
“We do hope to be back at Errol next year. I think they are pretty booked up with weddings most of the time but hopefully we will be back at our normal time of year with them next year.
“We try and keep to Perth and Kinross but we can sometimes move about a bit.”
The last Solas in 2019 was the 10th staging of the festival and featured a headline set from Honeyblood frontwoman Stina Tweeddale.
It was the event’s inaugural appearance at Errol Park, having previously been staged in its early days in South Lanarkshire, then at the Bield, Blackruthven, on six occasions.
Tickets for next month’s Solas are available from solasfestival.co.uk, with a host of concessions on offer.