INNERLEITHEN became the pulsating cultural hub of the Borders at the weekend with hundreds descending on the Tweedside town for its ninth annual music festival.
Barbara Dickson, the Fife-born folk singer who achieved superstar status in musical theatre, was the headliner at Saturday night’s Memorial Hall concert, surviving an attempt by a well-meaning volunteer to stop her entering the venue – he didn’t recognise her – to deliver a mesmerising performance.
“Barbara Dickson was on top form and delighted the sell-out crowd with her renditions of both traditional Scottish songs and her back catalogue of hits such as Caravan,” enthused Pam Fraser, chair of the organising committee.
A high standard for the evening had been set by young support acts – Lauren Knox and Tommy Ashby, followed by Jean Leslie and Siobhan Miller – showcasing the breadth and depth of local talent, and emphasising the inclusivity of the festival, with its informal sessions and workshops complementing big-ticket events.
An innovation this year was the establishment of a new venue – the Vale of Leithen Social Club – thanks to the sponsorship of the Co-operative Membership Community Fund.
The so-called Co-op concerts kicked off on Friday night with performances from Georgia Gordon and blues duo Bill Muir and Seoras Ashby, continued on Saturday with nine hours of top-class entertainment from the likes of the Small Hall Band and Rosie McCann, and concluded on Sunday with the String Jam Club at the IMF open mic extravaganza.
The festival got off to an exceptional start on Friday with singer Heidi Talbot, fiddler John McCusker and singer/songwriter Boo Hewerdine setting the highest standard of musical accomplishment at an opening concert, also graced by BBC Horizon award winner Ewan McLennan.
The late night festival clubs – the Union and the Vale – positively throbbed to the eclectic sounds of informal sessions throughout the weekend.
Pam Fraser’s personal highlight was the appearance of Canadian Nathan Rodgers who double-headed Saturday’s afternoon concert with Real Time.
“Although relatively unknown in this country, Nathan proved an incredible performer, not just of the music of his homeland but of the amazing Tuvan throat-singing style – a sound which entranced his audience,” said Pam.
And festival-goers who caught Eric Faulkner – yes, he of Bay City Rollers fame – were stunned by his heartfelt contribution to the Sunday lunchtime folk concert in the Memorial Hall and the encouragement he showed a raft of performers, including folk rockers Modhan and the prodigiously talented singer-songwriter Justin Blaszk from Lauder.