Dark Skies Festival all set to return to Lewis for 2021

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival has announced it is to return to the Isle of Lewis from February 5 - 18 next year.
Mother nature in all her glory. Pic by Gary Young.Mother nature in all her glory. Pic by Gary Young.
Mother nature in all her glory. Pic by Gary Young.

The two-week programme is set to include an exhibition by astronomy-inspired artist collective Lumen, music by Kathryn Joseph and Renzo Spiteri with talks by TV presenter Dallas Campbell and renowned climate scientist Tamsin Edwards.

The two-week arts and astronomy festival will be a key event in An Lanntair’s winter programme, as one of Scotland’s most prominent island arts venues cautiously continues to welcome back local audiences and winter visitors.

The festival is supported by new funding from Caledonian MacBrayne as well as Outer Hebrides LEADER, and is presented in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College UHI.

Highland AstronomyHighland Astronomy
Highland Astronomy

The third Dark Skies programme once again promises a mix of innovative and accessible events for all ages, and will include astronomy events with Highland Astronomy and Stornoway Astronomical Society; a series of film screenings exploring our complex relationship with darkness; online conversations with some very interesting people including songwriter Karine Polwart; family-friendly workshops; and a night swim with Immerse Hebrides.

Further announcements will follow in the coming weeks, with tickets going on sale from November.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We are thrilled that the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return for its third year, and we are extremely grateful to Caledonian MacBrayne for helping to make this exciting new programme possible, as well to Outer Hebrides LEADER for their continued support.

“This year has been immensely challenging for anyone who creates live events, and we are taking a very cautious approach to planning our third festival, with a programme that is adaptable to various lockdown scenarios in order to ensure the safety of our audiences and guests.

Callanish and the Cosmos by Scott DavidsonCallanish and the Cosmos by Scott Davidson
Callanish and the Cosmos by Scott Davidson

“We have always wanted this festival to provide something for people to look forward to during the darkest months of the year.

“This feels more important than ever as we enter a winter of continued lockdown restrictions.

“We are hopeful that by February we will be able to put on a full programme of live events, but whatever form the festival takes it will once again be a very special celebration of the breathtaking beauty of the Hebrides in winter. Put the dates in your diary now.”

Lumen are a London-based art collective brought together by a shared interest in themes of astronomy and light.

Launched in December 2014 by artists Louise Beer, Melanie King and Rebecca Huxley, they have curated or co-curated over 70 exhibitions and been commissioned to create work by the British Science Association and the Green Man Festival.

They have also hosted residencies in Cornwall and Atina, Italy.

Their Dark Skies Festival exhibition is the first time they have shown their work in Scotland. Find out more at http://lumenstudios.co.uk

Lumen said: “We are extremely excited about exhibiting for the first time within Scotland and viewing the night sky within the beautiful landscape of Stornoway.

“This exhibition is a collection of works that explore the philosophical and ecological importance of a clear view of our galaxy by Lumen directors, Louise Beer, Rebecca Huxley and Melanie King.

“Lumen will also exhibit Our Night Skies for the first time, a video composite of time-lapses of the night sky, showcasing artists from all over the globe.

“By combining the views of the stars together in one video, visitors to the exhibition will get a feeling of the Earth spinning through space from a range of vantage points.”

Kathryn Joseph is one of Scotland’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters. Her debut album ‘Bones You Have Thrown Me’ and ‘Blood I’ve Spilled’ won the 2015 Scottish Album of the Year Award.

Her follow-up, ‘From When I Wake The Want Is’, was also shortlisted for the prize. Her music has featured in the National Theatre of Scotland’s stage adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, and in the recent film The Outlaw King.

Kathryn said: “I feel so lucky to get to be part of the beautiful Hebridean Dark Skies Festival and I cannot wait for all of it.

“My dad lives on Lewis so it will be lovely to get to be back there.”

Dallas Campbell is a TV presenter, author, and ambassador for STEM education.

He has won many plaudits for his services to public understanding of science, including an honorary degree, an honorary fellowship from the British Science Association, and an Arthur C Clarke Media Award for services to space science.

His acclaimed television work includes the BAFTA-nominated Stargazing Live (BBC 2) which broadcast astronaut Tim Peake’s historic launch to the International Space Station live from Kazahkstan.

His first book, ‘Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet’, charts the history, science and culture of human spaceflight.

Dr Tamsin Edwards is a climate scientist specialising in quantifying the uncertainties of climate model predictions, particularly for the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise.

She is a lead author of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (to be published in 2021) and a contributing author to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (2019). 

Tamsin regularly advises the UK Government on sea-level rises, climate science and science communication, and provides expert comment to international media and business.

Renzo Spiteri is an internationally respected multi-percussion player and drummer, composer and improvisor who has been described by the press as “an artist who constantly surprises” and whose music “touches the soul directly”.

Renowned for his artistic versatility, creative use of sound and unlimited modes of expression, Renzo specialises in interdisciplinary and cross-artistic projects, collaborating with contemporary dance choreographers, visual artists, theatre directors, spoken word artists and filmmakers.

Freelance astronomer Stephen Mackintosh’s Highland Astronomy presents talks and stargazing sessions all over Scotland.

He is returning to the festival for a second year.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival takes place against the backdrop of some of most extraordinary dark skies in the whole of the UK – with breath-taking scenery to match.

In winter in particular, 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 or Aurora Borealis, can also be seen from the islands, one of the very best spots in the UK for watching this incredible phenomenon.

Andrew MacNair, head of marketing at CalMac, said: “The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival promotes the beauty of the area through inspiring and unique events. 

“CalMac is delighted to be involved for another year.”

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February.

For updates visit the official website: www.lanntair.com/darkskies.

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