Magnificent MOKFest: A welcome return to the live music scene

Iona Reid, holding her dog Connel, Christina McFadyen, Erin Ferguson and Calum Houston embraced Saturday afternoon's wet weather while enjoying the entertainment Up the Close.
Iona Reid, holding her dog Connel, Christina McFadyen, Erin Ferguson and Calum Houston embraced Saturday afternoon's wet weather while enjoying the entertainment Up the Close.

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There was a real buzz in Campbeltown last weekend as residents and visitors embraced the live music feast that was the 2021 Mull of Kintyre Music Festival (MOKFest).

With the 2020 festival cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it wasn’t clear if this year’s event could go ahead until just a few weeks beforehand when Scottish Government restrictions were eased.

The festival committee pulled out all the stops to successfully organise and deliver the biggest community event in Campbeltown for well over a year.

The five-day festival was kickstarted at last Wednesday’s Beinn an Tuirc Gaelic Night, an evening of tunes, stories and songs headlined by Catherine Tinney, supported by many local artists at Campbeltown’s Argyll Arms Hotel.

Kintyre’s young musicians continued proceedings on Thursday evening, putting on an impressive display of talent at the Young Folk Night in Campbeltown Heritage Centre.

As well as brass, wind, guitar, bagpipe and vocal performances, there were several Highland dancing displays.

With dancing permitted, the Festival Ceilidh in the Victoria Hall on Friday night proved to be a real hit, with Scotia Ceilidh Band, Wee Toon Tellers and Dalriada Connections Band providing the rousing soundtrack.

Wet weather on Saturday afternoon threatened to put a dampener on the planned Up the Close open-air events but the festival spirit prevailed, with audience members donning rain coats and huddling under umbrellas as they enjoyed sets from The Democrats and The Twisted Melons.

There was also dancing, piping and other entertainment on offer.

At night, festival-goers were spoiled for choice with two concerts on offer: the Traditional Concert at Campbeltown Heritage Centre featuring music from Da Birlinn, supported by the Claire Hasting Trio; and the West Coast Rocks Concert in the Victoria Hall, headlined by Tide Lines, with Beinn Lee and Rhuvaal also performing.

For those with enough energy remaining, there were two further offerings on Sunday: a celebration of Scottish, Irish and Pan Celtic musical links at the Kilkerran Dalriada Connections Concert in Campbeltown Heritage Centre in the afternoon; and, in the evening, the iconic Survivors Night, featuring music from the usual talented local musicians.

It was clear from the upbeat atmosphere in Campbeltown from the beginning to the end of the event that the return to some level of normality was welcomed by many.

It wasn’t only festival-goers who appreciated it, as the bands that performed reported being delighted to play to live audiences again, many for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

A spokesperson for headliners Tide Lines said: ‘We always love coming down to play in Campbeltown and Saturday night was no exception, it was a great thrill to be back.

‘With the absence of live music over the last 18 months, it felt like a really special night. The crowd was fantastic and the atmosphere in the hall was electric from beginning to end.

‘Thanks to MOKFest for having us and congratulations on bringing together a fantastic event.’

Claire Hastings, who headlined the Traditional Concert, said: ‘Thanks so much to MOKFest for inviting me to perform last weekend.

Having not performed live since before the pandemic, and also being my first gig as a mum, it’s safe to say I was a little nervous.

‘Thankfully the song words were still at the back of my brain, and it was so nice performing in front of a crowd again.

‘They also made it so easy for me to bring Nuala and Michael, and everyone was lovely and welcoming. It was great festival all round.’

Dalriada Connections Concert headliner Ainsley Hamill added: ‘MOKFest is packed with so many good musicians and the most appreciative audiences. It’s always a pleasure to play at the festival.’

A MOKFest spokesman said: ‘We are delighted to have managed to hold this year’s event and would like to thank everyone who attended the seven ticketed events and our Up the Close on the Saturday afternoon.

‘As ever, there are far too many people to thank individually so we would just like to say thank you to everyone who helped, performed and worked at the event.

‘We look forward to holding a full live event next year.’

He added: ‘We are also on the look-out for some new people to come on board and join the committee.’

Anyone interested can email for more information.