The first-ever Harris Tweed Festival is well under way and next Saturday (August 13) has been designated Festival Day.
The day will begin with the Isle of Lewis’ first-ever Harris Tweed Bike Ride. Riders sporting their favourite Harris Tweeds will follow a circular route through Stornoway before returning to An Lanntair for tea and scones and the presentation of the geansaidh buidhe – a hand-knitted, bobbin wool yellow jersey.
Participants in the bike ride must register at www.lanntair.com and pay a £5 registration fee. All riders under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Funds raised from the event will be donated to Action for Children.
After the bike ride, the Festival Day will continue with films, speakers, workshops and a fashion show.
Malcolm MacDonald and Ian MacLennan of the Stornoway Historical Society will be presenting Spinning Yarns – Tales from the Working Life of Harris Tweed. In a relaxed, and sometimes humorous, storytelling manner they will talk about Harris Tweed from the 1950s through to the 1970s when, according to Malcolm, Harris Tweed was in its heydey.
MacDonald said that Spinning Yarns is: “a nostalgic and historical tour of Harris Tweed over two decades – the mills, the home weavers, the families and individuals and the various tales around them.”
Both Ian and Malcolm worked in tweed mills in Stornoway during that period.
During their time at the mills, MacDonald said “we knew people from the top to the bottom, from the managers to the people who were brushing the floor. At that time there were five major mills in Stornoway, employing around 600 people. Work was seasonal according to orders.”
MacDonald also said that in 1966: “of all the sheep sheared in Scotland, one-quarter of the fleeces went to Stornoway for the production of Harris Tweed.”
Later in the afternoon, a fashion show titled Designer Maker Catwalk Showcase will feature some modern, contemporary fashion designers who work with Harris Tweed.
Netty Sopata of Diggory Brown is one of the fashion designers whose work will be featured in the showcase. Netty is a kilt maker who uses Harris and other local tweeds in her garments. Based in Ness, she did her kilt apprenticeship in Stornoway at Celtic Clothing.
As well as showing her designs at the show, she is orchestrating the fashion showcase which will focus on the work of six designers.
Netty said that local teenagers will be actively involved in the production of the show. “We’ve recruited the models from sixth form students at the Nicolson Institute.”
Students have been provided with tuition in modelling and other skills required to produce a fashion show. Not only were they given the opportunity to model, but also to get involved in the production side – hair, makeup, photography and filming.
Rosie Wiscombe of the fashion design studio By Rosie will also be showcasing her work. Wiscombe lives and works in Stornway. She said that the fashion show is: “a nice showcase of local designer makers, and each designer will be showing four outfits.
“We’ll be showing some nice hoodies and jumpers and different scarves and bags.”
By Rosie has recently introduced local knitwear into her collection. She said: “The items are knitted by lovely local ladies in their spare time.” Rosie also said that included in her collection are: “Bobbin socks, which are traditional to the island; we’ve jazzed them up with some modern colours.
“It’s nice to see the tweed that’s produced on the island. Local people will be able to see what’s made right here on the island, and I think they might be surprised at the quality and diversity of what local designer makers are producing.”
The festival has been created from a partnership between An Lanntair, the Harris Tweed Authority and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as part of the Scottish Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design and will be delivered as part of the Creative Place Award winning project ‘Bealach,” running until November 13.