Bella and the Bear Heb Celt slot

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A duo formed just last year have won a prestigious stage slot at the 20th anniversary Hebridean Celtic Festival this summer.

Bella and the Bear, formed by Stuart Ramage and Lauren Gilmour, from Ayr, were one of eight finalists in the competition which was held as part of the Calmac Culture Music contest run by CalMac Ferries Ltd.

The duo, who are in the second year studying commercial music at the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr, will now play on the award-winning festival’s Island Stage on Friday 17 July. They are currently awaiting the release of their first EP, Once Upon a Time, on 15 April.

Lauren said: “We’re so excited to have won the slot at the festival. We first heard of the CalMac Culture competition through social media and we thought it could do no harm to create a video together and apply.

“To be lucky enough to win the slot at HebCelt is just incredible.

“It’s so reassuring to know our music appeals to a wider audience and we cannot wait to spend our first summer as a band performing at such a wonderful festival.

“We’ve never played at a festival before and it’s beyond exciting.

“We’ve worked really hard to have our music heard over the last few months and an opportunity like this makes all of that completely worthwhile.”

The CalMac Culture Music contest is aimed at finding the best amateur singers and musicians.

This year the search was extended to include bands as well as promising singer/songwriters.

Entrants submitted a video of a performance of an original piece of music to YouTube and then encouraged fans to view and like the video.

The eight finalists each performed two live acoustic tracks to judges and a 150-strong audience at King Tut’s in Glasgow on Friday.

Caroline Maclennan, HebCelt’s director and a judge at the contest, said: “The standard of entries was extremely high and it was a tough job picking the winners.

“We were drawn to Bella and the Bear immediately. They have a distinctive sound and were worthy winners in the final. We are delighted to add them to our bill for this year’s festival.

HebCelt was voted Best Event or Festival at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards in November and this month was selected as one of the top 10 UK summer festivals for the fifth year in succession by influential publication Songlines.