SEALL (Skye Events for All) & The Sligachan Hotel
SEALL Festival of Small Halls
FESTIVALS | MUSIC
Community & social empowerment | Education & learning | Environment | Equality, diversity & inclusion | International engagement | Health & wellbeing | Older people | People with disabilities | Tourism | Young people
Using music to bring a community together
The first SEALL Festival of Small Halls took place between 23 and 30 November 2018, bringing big music to small halls in and around the Isle of Skye with the aim of promoting ‘people, place and performance’. By engaging some of Scotland’s most remote rural communities in a celebration of the traditional music and heritage of the Highlands and Islands, the Festival focused on the importance of the community hall as a space in which to gather and unite.
SEALL secured some of the most highly respected musicians in Scottish traditional music with Duncan Chisholm, Mairearad Green, Innes Watson, Donald Shaw, Mike Vass, Seán Gray, Ewan MacPherson, Aaron Jones, Sorren MacLean and Hector MacInnes performing in small halls across Braes, Breakish, Edinbane, Elgol, Kilmuir, Minginish, Plockton, Tarskavaig, Raasay and Waternish. The Festival ended on St Andrew’s Day with a sell-out Small Halls Big Cèilidh at The Sligachan Hotel – the Festival’s main local business partner.
The Sligachan Hotel was one of a number of local businesses helping to fund and facilitate the Festival and SEALL’s relationship with them began when the hotel was selected as a venue for the Scottish Opera Bus Tour earlier in the year. Centrally positioned and offering a variety of performance spaces combined with an excellent reputation for food and hospitality, the hotel attracts visitors from around the world but is still very much a community-based enterprise. Director, Deirdre Curley, and her team have an inclusive and responsible approach to the island’s rural population as well as a sound knowledge and understanding of the performing arts sector in Scotland.
With fees, hospitality and transport costs for the key musicians representing the major part of the Festival’s budget, the generosity of The Sligachan Hotel in contributing accommodation for musicians and use of the hotel’s halls, bars and functions rooms for talks and sessions, coupled with match funding from the CBFS, meant that SEALL could concentrate their limited budget on securing some of the very best artists in the Scottish traditional music scene, providing them with a full hospitality package and a wealth of spaces in which to engage with audiences the length and breadth of Skye.
SEALL recognised the need for a fresh approach to broaden their offering and reach the whole island as well as deliver individual community-led events to locals and visitors during the quieter winter months. The partnership between SEALL and The Sligachan Hotel not only increased the arts organisation’s reputation for delivering unique, inclusive and high-quality performing arts event but plans are now afoot to make this Festival an annual event.
The Sligachan Hotel added value to the Festival by doubling exposure through word of mouth and their own media campaigns, and they supported ticket sales with such success that the Small Halls Big Ceilidh sold out well in advance. Through the Festival’s own extensive media campaign, printed materials and digital content, the profile of both organisations was raised significantly in Skye and in Scotland.
1,544 people participated in the Festival, which engaged a total of 89 performers, volunteers in staff. The project engaged communities and small business in each village by bringing a traditional Scottish ‘festival’ to their location for a day and then connecting them together in an island-wide event – the Small Halls Big Ceilidh on St Andrew’s Day.
Through the Festival, young people living in remote rural areas were able to experience a large-scale, community-led, traditional celebration as well as reap the benefits of learning musical skills from traditional musicians through the delivery of free musical workshops in 10 of the island’s schools. The event also encouraged inter-generational social cohesion and diversity, and strengthened community bonds through half-price tickets offered to under 26s and free tickets to those of school age and below. Within each village, the presence of high-profile musicians created a real buzz with individual small hall committees putting on buffets and encouraging local pubs and restaurants to provide ‘pre-show’ meals at discounted prices.
With all participating communities and musicians coming together for a final night of shared celebration, the project more than reached its ambition to celebrate people, place and performance and turn the spotlight on the village hall as a communal gathering place.