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Orkney Folk Festival goes digital for 2021

The organisers of the Orkney Folk Festival have decided to move their plans for 2021's event online due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision follows the cancellation of 2020's weekend of live music during the early stages of the global health crisis. Then, the Festival launched its Big Lockdown Special, featuring live footage from festival archives spanning nearly four decades, which amassed over 31,000 views between Facebook and YouTube broadcasts.

This time, the team hopes to create brand new content celebrating Orkney and Orcadian musicians, singers and groups, alongside performances from visiting artists, shining a spotlight on the isles to whet the appetite for visitors returning to a live festival in 2022.

Local group Fara performing in 2018 - image by Sean Purser


The organising committee had, until very recently, remained hopeful of being able to stage a live festival this spring. Over recent months a number of adaptations to the festival’s format were explored, both logistically and financially - including the creation of a special outdoor event. However, the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases throughout Scotland and the UK, combined with associated lockdown restrictions upon both gatherings and travel, created a rapidly-changing and ultimately unworkable backdrop upon which to plan for a live event just months away.

Festival Director Bob Gibbon said: “We are all hugely disappointed to be unable to bring you the festival we created over a year ago and still want to put on - hopefully now in 2022. However, safety comes first and making this decision now gives us time to engage with artists in Orkney, and potentially acts from south and further afield too, to create something really special."

Festival chair, Elaine Grieve added: “No one could have predicted how 2020 would turn out, and we were all so looking forward to welcoming visiting artists and audiences back to Orkney this year. Clearly that is not to be, or at least not in May - and our thoughts go out to the great many local businesses affected by another uncertain year ahead for tourism. So too do we feel for all of the artists, who have had an incredibly difficult year with live performances, and the majority of their income, frozen for the time being."

Le Vent Du Nord in 2018 - image by Sean Purser


Most, if not all, of the visiting artists scheduled to appear at the festival in 2020 and 2021 will now do so in 2022. Scottish headliners including Skerryvore - who are currently celebrating their third week on the BBC Radio 2 daytime playlist, with their new single, You And I - and Blazin’ Fiddles, who recently appeared on BBC1’s Hogmanay 2020 alongside Deacon Blue and Amy Macdonald, have already confirmed their appearances. The Festival will take place on May 26-29, 2022.

In the meantime, keep up to date with plans for the 2021's digital event online and follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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