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Na Fèisean Geamhraidh / Innovative Winter Festivals

PROJECT // Na Fèisean Geamhraidh

An Lanntair plans to launch a programme of four new innovative events and festivals through the ‘low’, winter to spring season, with a primary focus on attracting new and additional tourists to the islands and establishing these events as key visitor attractions in the annual island calendar.   The events will lead to extensive economic development of the islands, as overnight visits to the islands increase, as well as spend per head, during the off-peak tourism season. 

The four new annual events will include:


Event 1. Fèis na Speuran Dòrcha / Outer Hebrides Festival of Dark Skies (February) 

The islands of the Outer Hebrides are some of the darkest places in the UK, perfect for the launch of a new Festival of Dark Skies, led by An Lanntair, delivered in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, and taking place across the islands, including at the world-famous Callanish Stones site. 

The Festival will be all about attracting tourists to the islands in the winter months to discover, learn and enjoy the dark skies, as well as offering new opportunities for local people to engage with their environment.  The dark skies across the islands are a valued attribute of the rural character and tranquillity of the place.  Many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula –over 1,500 light years away, the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, can also be spotted from the islands, which have become a real hotspot for watching this fascinating phenomenon. 


Event 2. Fèis Lòn / Hebridean Food and Craft Festival (March):  A food and craft festival weekend event, inviting old and new food and drink producers and trades people from local industries to set up shop throughout the An Lanntair building; including interactive demonstrations, from the Herring industries of the past to today’s seaweed confectionary and biscuits.  Tastings will explore some of the classic and highly distinctive Hebridean fare, such as Marag Dubh and Guga.  The craft element of the festival will involve exhibiting and highlighting the many and varied crafts from across the Outer Hebrides, including weaving and print making demonstrations, workshops and artist talks throughout the event.  A Harris Tweed Bike Ride will launch the festival each year. 


Event 3. Faclan air an Iomall:  Words on the Edge – Fringe Event to the Hebridean Book Festival (October):  The Hebridean Book Festival will take place over a full week in An Lanntair during the autumn. It will focus on bringing some of the world’s top writers to the islands and encouraging visitors to enjoy a week’s stay on the island, whilst attending this first class event.  It will include a plethora of events with authors, films, music and workshop opportunities. Alongside this, there will be a new element to Faclan supported: the Festival Fringe, which will involve a series of events and activities programmed around the festival, taking in performing and visual arts, and taking Faclan authors out and about around the islands to fringe events and talks at a range of new and different venues across the Outer Hebrides, including Harris and the Uists and Barra.


Event 4. Fèis Eadar-nàiseanta nan Ealain Gàidhlig / International Festival of Gaelic Arts (November):  A festival of Gaelic arts celebrating and showcasing Gaelic arts and culture to a wide audience.  This festival of Gaelic will see Gaelic acts and artists showcasing their talents, from music to visual arts exhibitions, to dance, film and theatre.  It will take place over a number of days at An Lanntair, bringing the Gaelic arts sector together and promoting and raising the profile of Gaelic arts to a national audience.  It will also involve Gaelic artists travelling to Stornoway to take part in a programme of professional development for the Gaelic arts sector, including a series of industry-led workshops and mentoring sessions.   


The overarching aim of this Innovative Winter Festivals project is to create a legacy of successful events and festivals for the long term, attracting visitors to the islands outside of the normal high season summer period.  Visitors to these events will experience a real taste of the Hebrides.  The project will celebrate and enhance the distinctiveness of the Outer Hebrides, highlighting history and heritage, alongside the new and innovative.