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DIANE KNOX: This summer's Belladrum festival promises to be extra special after a three year Covid break

By Diane Knox

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Kaiser Chiefs’ frontman Ricky Wilson at Belladrum in 2015.
Kaiser Chiefs’ frontman Ricky Wilson at Belladrum in 2015.

NOTHING says “summer” in the Highlands quite like a festival, and nobody does it better than Belladrum.

The Tartan Heart Festival is under way, kicking off yesterday and building to its crescendo tomorrow night. And what a crescendo it will be.

With Van Morrison, Nile Rogers, Emeli Sandé, The Fratellis and even Shed Seven throughout the three-day line-up, there’s something to cater to every musical taste and satisfy all genres.

The festival is such a story of success in the Highlands, and it’s crazy to think that this all grew from a tiny idea in 2004, when a mere 2000 people attended a one-day event in the area that now houses the main stage.

Due to the success of the debut, the following year it blossomed into a two-day festival with five stages, attracting acts such as The Proclaimers and The Bluetones. Belladrum generated such a buzz locally, and word was spreading throughout the rest of the UK.

Not only was the festival satisfying the urge for live, outdoor music, but it was a real weekend of arts for the whole family, with performers, story-telling, theatre and cabaret – an eclectic, unique weekend of arts like no other. The child-friendly atmosphere was quickly becoming a huge draw.

This year, 20,000 people are expected to attend, and the Belladrum Estate near Kiltarlity becomes a small town for the weekend!

Over the years, demand has only grown and the Tartan Heart Festival has always been a sell-out, adding some names of real superstar calibre to their line-up. They’ve welcomed Idlewild, Edwyn Collins, Ocean Colour Scene, Texas, Ed Sheeran, Amy MacDonald, Travis, Kaiser Chiefs and even Tom Jones to the stage – and the list goes on and on.

Due to the dreaded Covid, it’s been three years since the festival was last held, and music fans have been champing at the bit to be back at Belladrum, pulling out the wellies (even if it’s sunny!) and jumping and up down to the music. Nothing beats it.

Some of my favourite memories over the years have been at festivals – T in the Park, RockNess and, of course, Belladrum. The latter has always been special, as the atmosphere is unmatched. It’s friendly, it’s chilled and care-free, and there’s so much talent on display. You can’t help but soak in the energy and have the best time!

Also, this year there’s a real emphasis on green initiatives and making the weekend more environmentally friendly. Like any festival, there’s a LOT of rubbish and waste – up to 100 tonnes – and much of that in the past has consisted of plastic cups. Attendees are being encouraged to bring their own water bottles, and use reusable cups to help minimise the waste.

Also, if campers choose to leave their tents after the weekend, the charity Highland Refugees Support will have a drop-off location on-site for people to donate their belongings – a great idea because packing up that tent when you’re feeling a little bedraggled from the festival’s activities is always a slog!

If you’re going to Belladrum this year, dance, cheer and be merry. I have a feeling, after the cancellations of 2020 and 2021, there’s a lot of missed dancing to make up for.

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