KNOCKENGORROCH FESTIVAL STORY – HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The place where a spider fell on the map, the extraordinary ‘Rainbow Tribe’ who gathered for a month on the Galloway doorstep of lyrical Scotia, and last but not least the shared re-discovery of musical Alba that gained pace thereafter – each in its own inimitable way gave birth to the unique musical event held every year on ancient Knockengorroch Meadow.
The spider knew its way around! The core group of ‘World tribe focalizers’ who selected Knockengorroch as the ‘seed camp’ site of the 1997 International Rainbow Gathering could have done no better. In the extraordinarily sunny early Summer of that year the field of multi ethnic white tepees that sprang up on the meadow was a not only a pleasure to behold, it was a melting pot of creativity that would re-invigorate the cultural soul of Southwest Scotland. Relationships cemented here would create new audiences and bring performers together from Gallowa’ to Clydeside, and indeed from far beyond.
In February 1998 together with my incomparable wife Liz I found myself in Glasgow Concert Hall, brought to tears by the cross-over Lilting sound of a saxophone accompanied by braying Scottish pipes. Liz was right to bring me here. Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival was going from strength by the time we discovered it. Only one thing was missing it seemed to me, the living musical landscape of Scotland is not to be found in any concert hall, however fine it may be. The essential landscape that inspired the music I heard spoke of stately hills and flowing torrent waters, and both were to be found at home in abundance. We should build a stage and invite musicians to perform at Knockengorroch I decided then and there. I put it to Liz. She agreed in principle. After a previous summer of ‘Rainbow magic’ during which time to our great surprise and delight people from all over the world had flocked to our door, we were eager for more adventure. If it happened once it could happen again.
We said no more about it, until a day or two later when seated in the concert hall Café by chance several members of the band Old Blind Dogs stood by us in the queue. Unless it cost a fortune, whatever they might charge us for a gig we could cover it by ticket sales I reasoned. Liz was was unconvinced at first, although I do believe she was as keen as me. At least it was her who approached Jonny Hardie, and her that agreed the deal. The first Ceilidh Gall Gallowa’ Upland Festival went ahead in June that year on Knockengorroch Meadow, with Old Blind Dogs, Iron Horse and Deaf Shepherd on the billing, and apart from the midges, the rest is history . . .