‘Virtually Knockengorroch’ Festival Kicks Off A New Season, And A New World

Lizzy Treacy, Crew co-ordinator for Knockengorroch writes ” Waking up with my first festival hangover of the year- glitter encrusted, limbs aching from a long night dancing, beautiful melodies ringing in my ears and a giant smile etched on my face was not something imaginable when lockdown first began nine weeks ago… but this weekend, Virtually Knockengorroch made it all a reality.
When Knockengorroch festival co-producer Katch Holmes approached me to help with an online festival I was keen, but curious as to how it could work – after all there was a only a matter of weeks to turn round her decision to mark the original festival dates with what was aptly named ‘Virtually Knockengorroch’.
After quick research, Katch realised that the platform to deliver the event exactly how she wanted did not yet exist, or was prohibitively expensive. Knockengorroch’s looming dates minimised time to research the full scale of possibilities, so she settled on zoom as the closest platform capable of hosting the vision. 
The authentic, inherently participatory nature of Knockengorroch has always marked it out, and Virtually Knockengorroch was no exception – festival guests were invited to dress up along this year’s theme of ‘ceestial beings’, workshops needed active attendees, guests could create their own campsite breakout rooms if they wanted to chat between sets, dancing was 100% encouraged and as in any live music event, the more the audience engaged and participated, the better the atmosphere and collective fun. Participants enthusiastically responded with tents pitched in gardens, campfires, dramatic costumes, elaborate living room decorations and wellies.
For those of us keen festival attendees, it is often the total immersion of the event we enjoy, the stimulation of all our senses, with colours, sights, sounds, tastes and feeling of that which surrounds us, and Knockengorroch Festival always provides that in abundance. As one participant pointed out, Virtually Knockengorroch could only provide for two of those senses – sight and sound, and yet it still exceeded all expectations.  Over the weekend,  people constantly commented on how it evoked true feelings of Knockengorroch, those of community, connection, family and love.
Both Friday and Saturday featured an incredible musical cabaret, with evocative performances from members of Shooglenifty, who created a video especially for the occasion, Twelfth Day, John Fairhurst and Greg Lawson amongst others.  It was a transformative experience for many artists – one poignant comment that it was wonderful to hear a live round of applause. 
Afro Celt Sound System’s N’Faly Kouyate dropped in from his village in Guinea and the band premiered a brand new tune ‘the Lockdown Gorroch Reel’ and video, written especially for the festival.  “
Simon Emmerson, from Afro Celt Sound System, said:It was an amazing experience.  If this is part of the future of live entertainment in a post Covid 19 world count us in. It was inspiring, magical and generated a very moving sense of togetherness and solidarity so needed in these dark and fractured times.”
We were treated to glimpses of Knockengorroch farm itself – the river, longhouse, Bo Airigh stage and hills – eerily quiet, but festival directors Liz and Simon Holmes reassured us they are eagerly awaiting our return, whilst delivering heartfelt messages of support to artists and attendees alike.
Workshops throughout included a hilarious and informative pond dipping session, with live action taking place from a bathtub,  Scottish Highland and North Indian dance from the comfort of our own homes and what was I am sure, for all those taking part, a ceilidh quite like no other; mixing live music and calling, pre-recorded living room demonstrations of footwork and an array of families, couples, individuals and even animals joining in!
Sunday evening kicked off in explosive style with a family Samedia Shebeen session. Mungos Hi Fi played out their traditional Knockengorroch finale, and for those of us still up and dancing, it was all over far too quickly.
Knockengorroch is one of the very first festivals of the summer and one of the first ‘greenfield’ music festivals in Scotland. It paved the way for Scottish festivals and has now paved the way again – taking itself online over a variety of platforms in a groundbreaking event in our Covid-19 affected foreseeable future.
By the end of the summer things will have been tried; new and better platforms may well be available but Knockengorroch has once again kicked off  festival season in style and is blazing a trail like no other in these uncertain times.

The Afro Celt Sound System video ‘The Lockdown Gorroch Reel’ can be found here


The Shooglenifty video ‘Black Dog’ is here


All sessions are available to watch on the Knockengorroch website


The link to donate will be open until the end of the month https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/virtuallyknockengorroch


The full line-up: Afro Celt Sound System, Mungos Hi Fi Sound System and Vixen Sound, Shooglenifty, Greg and Pete (Moishe’s Bagel), John Fairhurst, Macmaster/Hay, DJ Dolphin Boy, Twelfth Day, Zoe Bestel, Ceitidh Mac, Awry, Samson Sounds, Tom Spirals, Samedia Shebeen, Cera Impala, Cenote Sounds, Easy Skankin’ Crew, Theo Bard, Ceitidh Mac, Sam Gillespie and Siannie Moodie, Toby Mottershead, Luisa Brown and John Anderson, Morag Brown and Lewis Powell, Daniel Allison, Freya Rae, Martin Fell, Chandra Mather, Cammy Sinclair

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