Our 40th Folk Festival is going ahead in 2022!

At last, it’s back!! The Shetland Folk Festival will finally return this Spring as organisers confirm an in-person event and an eclectic and international line-up once more to mark the 40th festival.

The four-day event will celebrate its return by looking to the future while also reflecting on the last four decades, with both established and new local & visiting acts at the core of the programming.

Scottish music legend, Dougie MacLean will make a welcome return having first appeared at the Festival back in 1986. Famed for writing the much loved anthem, Caledonia, MacLean has built an international reputation as a songwriter, composer and extraordinary performer, and has wowed audiences all over the world including on the prestigious stages of Carnegie Hall in New York, London’s Festival Theatre and the Sydney Opera House.

Grammy-nominated String Band, Della Mae, are among the debut acts to make it across this year. Comprising of some of the finest bluegrass musicians from USA and Canada, the 5-piece have received rave reviews and acclaim across both sides of the Atlantic and have been on the Festival’s radar and wish list for some time.

Irish songstress, Heidi Talbot will also appear at the festival for the first time while marking over 20 years as a performer this year and with material from a new album, Sing it for a Lifetime, to share.

Scottish supergroup, The Poozies hold iconic status in Shetlanders’ memories when they wowed audiences back in 1991 and featured in the Shetland Sessions TV series that same year. With a new line-up and material they are sure to do the same again. Newbies Sarah McFadyen (fiddle, banjo, guitar) and Tia Files (guitar, fiddle, percussion) have joined founding member Mary Macmaster (electro-harp) and long-term cohort Eilidh Shaw (fiddle), and together they continue to play a dazzling, joyfully eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional tunes with beefy, powerful accompaniment.

Other returnees include Scandinavian groups such as Finnish power-folk septet, Frigg and Danish party band, Habadekuk while Kevin Henderson will return from his home in Norway for a series of guest appearances in different formats. He will be premiering a new tune he was commissioned to write for the festival's 40th by festival supporter, Brian Johnston. A competition to name the tune will be announced soon.

There is also the highly anticipated return of Le Vent de Nord from Quebec. Now touring as a five piece with the addition of Andre Brunet (formerly De Temps Antan), Le Vent Du Nord last delighted Shetland Folk Festival audiences in 2008 with their hard-driving soulful music, which is rooted in Celtic, but incorporates a broad range of global influences. They bring to their live performances a vast repertoire of both traditional and original compositions, combined with an amazing energetic stage presence full of dynamic flair.

It was only at the last festival in 2019 that Cape Breton’s multi-instrumentalist, JP Cormier was back performing on the isles, but due to popular demand he is making a welcome return for the 40th! This time Cormier will be partnering up with festival debutant and award winning singer-songwriter and acclaimed musician, Dave Gunning.

There just wouldn’t be a 40th spree without the appropriately named Orcadian duo, Saltfishforty so the festival organisers are delighted to have Brian Cromarty and Douglas Montgomery back to help get celebrations in full swing. Other musicians coming to join in on the fun include fiddle-player Ross Couper, who will feature with his brother Ryan Couper during the weekend and with Highlands-based multi-instrumentalist, Hamish Napier, who will also be special guest ‘house musicians’ for the festival club.

A collection of local acts including Haltadans, Vair, Herkja, Skelburn, Freda Leask Band and festival stalwarts, Shetland’s Heritage Fiddlers will also be performing in various venues throughout Shetland over the weekend.

Meanwhile some of Shetland’s prominent party bands such as the Revellers, First Foot Soldiers and David Sandison & the Tennessee Wannabees will appear in specially programmed LATE gigs.

Whilst some aspects of the Festival will be slightly scaled back compared to previous years, the core magical ingredients are all there and organisers are optimistic that people will enjoy and appreciate the event even more after a three year gap.

Festival Publicity Officer, Louise Johnson feels the festival can play a key role in helping build community confidence once more and give something to look forward to in the coming months.

“The last two years have been tough on us all and the live music industry more generally. The decision to go ahead with an in-person event was not taken lightly with a range of issues and risks to consider. However, after consulting the community and our various stakeholders we feel it is exactly what people need again – a chance to hear world-class music live and come together socially. It is something we have all been craving and despite some alterations to how the festival will operate this year, we hope people will appreciate our efforts to provide concerts and a festival club experience in an appropriate way.”

The Festival Club in Islesburgh Community Centre will be open from Friday 29th April and unlike previous years, it will be a daytime venue only with no late-night Club programming. In lieu of the usual late-night programming and sessions, organisers are working hard to create a packed programme of events including daytime workshops, album launches and programmed live music in the Festival Club. Informal sessions will be actively encouraged during the day, as we know that this is such an important part of the Festival for many. To help ensure the lively atmosphere and musical spontaneity that has been missed by so many, this year will feature resident Club musicians in the form of Ross Couper, Kevin Henderson and Hamish Napier whose role will be to help keep these sessions going. All members are welcome to bring along their instruments and join in the fun!

For those who normally love the late-night Club element to the Festival, fear not!! A new late-night venue is being introduced at the Lerwick British Legion on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th, featuring bands that festival attendees will love to dance to! These gigs will be ticketed in the same way as other concerts and early members will get priority booking of these tickets. These late events will follow the same Covid certification rules that are currently in place for nightclubs in Scotland.

Festival Club membership will be available from Friday 18th-28th February on the link below and as in previous years, early members will get access to all ticket booking 1 week before ticket booking opens up to all.

The festival runs from April 28th till May 1st 2022.