Commonwealth cultural ties marked at Stornoway reception

Boomerang at the Callanish Stones
Boomerang at the Callanish Stones

The historical links between Scottish, Aboriginal and Maori cultures were celebrated in Stornoway this week ahead of an international artistic spectacle that will be a highlight of this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival.

Civic leaders joined organisers of HebCelt and representatives of the Hebrides’ artistic community in welcoming performers from the Boomerang Project to a reception at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar headquarters last night (Tuesday, July 15th).

HebCelt, which starts today, is one of only two venues in Scotland to host the international, cross-cultural event being held as part of this year’s Commonwealth Games celebrations.

Boomerang is a major feature of the nationwide Culture 2014 programme, which has been supported by Creative Scotland to mark Glasgow’s hosting of the Games.

It is described as a cultural version of a baton relay, thrown from Scotland and returning to its origins via Australia and New Zealand. It will explore and celebrate cultural links through language, music and dance, including ancient bagpipe tunes and Gaelic waulking songs, a newly-written Haka pride chant and pieces for the didgeridoo.

The musical spectacle will be staged at HebCelt tomorrow night (Thursday, July 17th), ahead of a major concert at Glasgow Green on July 24th as part of the Festival 2014 celebrations for the Commonwealth Games.

During their time in Lewis, the visitors have been immersed in the traditions and culture of a Gaelic-speaking community.

They have been staying at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village in Carloway where generations of crofting families lived in small stone and thatch accommodation until the 1970s.

The style of buildings which survived for centuries almost disappeared but the village was declared a conservation area shortly after the last residents left.

HebCelt festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “We are delighted Boomerang is part of this year’s festival as it is an exciting addition to our programme during the Year of Homecoming. It is a wonderful opportunity to promote our cultural ties with Australia and New Zealand.

“By staying at Gearrannan our visitors have been getting a real feel for our history, traditions and the island culture.”

Comhairle Convener Norman A Macdonald said: “We are very proud of the Hebridean Celtic Festival and delighted that it has been chosen as one of only two venues in Scotland to host an international, cross-cultural concert which is being held this year as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations.

“I feel that the festival’s approach to music, art and culture is very healthy, on the one hand maintaining and supporting the traditional Gaelic culture of the islands, but also pushing the borders to a more modern interpretation of that culture.

“The Boomerang project brings with it an eclectic mix of Scottish, Aboriginal and Maori cultures which is sure to attract a lot of interest here in the Outer Hebrides,” he continued. “It will be very interesting to see the merger of ancient bagpipe tunes and Gaelic waulking songs with a newly-written Haka pride chant and pieces for the didgeridoo.”

Boomerang was conceived in Glasgow last year and was premiered at the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival in New Zealand in March before visiting the Homeground Festival at the Sydney Opera House in April.

The project is being produced by Active Events in Scotland, Tihi in New Zealand and the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

Artists taking part include Scottish folk band Breabach, who won the MG ALBA Scots Trad Awards Folk Band of the Year 2012 and Live Act of the Year 2013 awards, and were best group nominees in this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards.

They will be joined, from New Zealand, by Maori musician and composer Horomona Horo and Moana and TheTribe, one of the leading exponents of Maori music.

Representing Australia will be indigenous singer/songwriter Shellie Morris and Casey Donovan, a singer and actress, who won the second season of the singing competition show Australian Idol, as well as Djakapurra Munyarryun, a traditional dance performer and teacher who took part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and dancer and producer Tim Bishop.