i'm writing this on the train wending it's way through the north of england en route to london with a bleary post festival look and feeling. i figure that if i don't blog now it may not happen as a busy week lies ahead...
for several years people have been dreaming of a festival in scotland along the lines of greenbelt and finally last year it was birthed as solas. i went along for the second festival with jenny who was speaking and harry who was performing (rather than me being left home alone)! it has been a quite magical experience. i guess around 5 or 600 people were there and that smallness made it easy to access everything and for a real community feel. there was a big top for a main stage and a few smaller tents with talks and workshops, as well as lots of creative things around the site. the artists were all excellent and it had a real scottish flavour throughout. i have actually come away wondering if every other scot can play the guitar and sing soulful songs as the open mic slots in the glad cafe brimmed with so much talent. it's hard to pick out highlights but rory butler a 20 year old debuting on main stage has got whatever soul is - reminiscent in places of john martin. the butler household is clearly quite extra-ordinary as the rest of the band were family members and the album released at the festival was produced by steve butler (one of whose albums i must have bought 25 years ago).it's wonderful to see families where artistry is somehow just in the air they breathe. then adam stearns was the other complete unknown who bowled people away with his quirky inimitable style. i say the other, but harry also went down incredibly well which was amazing to see.
but it's the essence or spirit that's at the heart of solas that is what makes it special. it's quality, but open and warm and generous and infused throughout with irresistible faith. the team who put it together give of time, money and energy to pull this off. it's fragile but I hope it can ride the challenges of early years and inevitable challenges of finance and gaining support to become a regular fixture in the scottish landscape. something really special has emerged - go along next year. even the weather worked out. i confess I was checking the bbc predictions of heavy rain with despondency ahead of time but aside from a couple of showers it was dry and the sun shone which was a great blessing.
the early years of this sort of thing are particularly exciting i think and it made me wonder what the first greenbelt or big chill was like. and there are little things that i loved. one was the lack of a big commercial feel - artists cds were sold on a small table at the back, corporate sponsors weren't having big slots or plugs. volunteers contributed to their tickets. the communion service was so simple - it was delightful. children just felt part of things rather than separated off.
i was also thinking of the wild goose festival kicking off in the usa and hope their debut was equally magical. i'll add a few photos to flickr when i get back and find a spare moment.
[update - that spare moment has come - a few photos here - solas 2011]