Tucked into the hills of Dumfries and Galloway, Knockengorroch celebrated its 18th year of bringing music and people into a beautiful valley.
The festival is named the World Ceilidh, and it lived up to this description with a broad range of music and international cuisine to please all parties. Representing Scottish culture were groups such as the Peatbog Faeries and Shooglenifty - the group that invented the genre ‘acid croft’ 25 years ago, and who still give traditional music a fresh and expressive edge with their progressive sound. The John Langan Band, whose roots are firmly in the Knockengorroch earth, had the crowd bouncing, and a gargantuan ceilidh led by the young group Awry had 400 people linking arms and dancing till they could dance no more.
The festival organisers who live on the land are motivated by the opportunity to cross borders, bridge distances and call out injustice wherever they see it. This year they brought Aziza Brahim to play, who grew up in the Sahawari refugee camps in Algeria, home of the Western Sahara’s state in exile. Her performance was uplifting and emotive, moving the audience as she played a traditional drum and sang out to the crowd. Closer to home, Mercury Prize winners the Young Fathers from Edinburgh delivered their unique concoction of sound, which seems to blend the urban with the ancient – rapped lyrics, gigantic bass-scapes, powerful electronic rhythms and eccentric dance moves. The London Afrobeat Orchestra brought the sunshine in the night time, with a fiery horn and rhythm section which was incredibly infectious for those on the dancefloor.
Local initiatives to support the region included the Galloway food and drink showcase, supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council. Several organic and local food providers were in attendance with samples and demonstrations of their wares and festival visitors enjoyed browsing the products that this mountainous area provides.
The World Ceilidh started out as a small gathering on the highland cattle smallholding in 1998, and now brings together over 3000 people to dance, jump and kick start the season of summer festivals.
The atmosphere of the festival was unique, it reflected the wildness and open aspect of the landscape with its music, crafts and festival goers who came prepared with a strong spirit of adventure.
Where Knockengorroch really thrives is in a realm that is outside the ordinary, so much of the magic and memorable experiences happen beyond the main stage. Conversations by the firepits and the sensation of jumping from the sauna to the ice-cold river; Bulgarian choral singing in the grass-roofed longhouse and hikes into the hills; Stone carving with limestone trucked up from Bath, and the opportunity to try out other old-school skills such as wood carving and metal forging. In a place where the weather settles on a new season every day, the art of spontaneity and remembering the ways of old are part of the essence of Knockengorroch.