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BBC ALBA launches talent search for up and coming Highlands and Islands act to open on main stage of Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival


By Alasdair Fraser

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Belladrum's fans are in for a treat in 2024. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Belladrum's fans are in for a treat in 2024. Picture: James Mackenzie.

BBC ALBA is launching a search for up-and-coming Highlands and Islands musical talents to open the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival on the main stage.

Celebrating 20 years of Belladrum – and its longstanding support of Scottish artists – the TV channel’s search is open to solo artists and bands from the Highlands and Islands.

To qualify for the contest, which spans all musical genres, at least 50 per cent of a band’s members have to have a Highland home address.

The talent search will showcase the top newcomer with a prime slot in the Hot House Arena on Thursday, July 25, kicking off the weekend of live music and arts.

The winner will also have the opportunity to play an acoustic session in the BBC ALBA studio which will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer as part of the broadcaster’s festival coverage.

Scene from Belladrum Festival 2023. Paul Campbell Photography.
Scene from Belladrum Festival 2023. Paul Campbell Photography.

Musicians can apply by submitting a bio and link to their music to tartanheart@bbc.co.uk, with entries judged by a panel of experts, including representatives from Belladrum, the BBC and Scottish folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Julie Fowlis.

The shortlist will then go to a public vote on the Belladrum website.

Julie Fowlis said: “The Belladrum Tartan Heart festival has become one of Scotland’s most popular and iconic music festivals, set in the most beautiful Highland surroundings.

“It’s the kind of festival that every musician wants to play.

“I’m honoured to be part of the judging team for this year's talent search, which affords an amazing opportunity to an up and coming artist from the Highlands and Islands to perform at the festival.

“If you’d like to play Bella this year, this is your chance.”

Scene from Belladrum Festival 2023. Paul Campbell Photography.
Scene from Belladrum Festival 2023. Paul Campbell Photography.

Calum McConnell, commissioning editor at BBC ALBA, said: “We’re proud supporters of the arts in Scotland, and committed to bringing coverage of the likes of Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival to viewers across the nation through funding from MG ALBA.

”We’re always keen to showcase our homegrown talent, so what better way to extend our annual support of the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival in its 20th anniversary year than with a search for the next best ‘homegrown’ talent from the Highlands and Islands.

“Our Belladrum festival coverage is always a highlight in the BBC ALBA summer schedule and with the winner earning a spot on the main stage, we hope this can give an emerging artist the boost to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Fatherson, Frightened Rabbit and Twin Atlantic, who all played at Belladrum early on in their careers.”

Belladrum brings together top musical acts, comedy, cabaret, spoken word, dance, drag and even wrestling as part of the annual family-friendly festival.

A wealth of new names have been added to the festival’s 20th anniversary line up in recent weeks, with returning festival favourites and artists making their first visit to the Highland event, including mighty rock music legends Toyah & Robert, and the UK’s biggest country music export, The Shires.

A band with one of the most long-standing relationships with Belladrum, Twin Atlantic, will also make a welcome return, headlining The Garden Stage this summer – having first made their break on the festival’s emerging artist stage in 2008.

Twin Atlantic made their Belladrum debut in 2008 on the Emerging Talent Stage
Twin Atlantic made their Belladrum debut in 2008 on the Emerging Talent Stage

These acts join the previously announced headliners Deacon Blue, James Arthur and Sugababes, alongside Ocean Colour Scene, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Calum Beattie, Teenage Fanclub, Jack Bugg and many others, with this year’s event themed around ‘love’.

Dougie Brown, Belladrum festival producer, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with BBC ALBA in search of the most exciting up and coming artists from across the Highlands & Islands.

“Since the very first festival in 2004, Bella has been proud to showcase the best in emerging music alongside household names and festival favourites.

“Numerous artists' careers have grown in parallel with the festival and there is nothing better than watching an artist's career blossom and invite them to return to the festival to perform on bigger stages, and to bigger audiences.”

The talent search is now open, with entries accepted via email to tartanheart@bbc.co.uk until 9am on Friday 12 July.

Tickets and more information on Belladrum can be found at tartanheartfestival.com.


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