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FOLK AT THE SALMON BOTHY – THE 10TH HAAL - Portsoy -31 May – 2 June

The 10th Haal, held in Portsoy earlier this year, was declared a resounding success by organisers, performers and audiences, as all were treated to a weekend of superb songs, tunes, stories and poetry. Both Friday and Saturday concerts were sold out and all the other events enjoyed huge crowds too.

On a weekend that had so many high points, it would be unfair to pick a highlight, but if pushed, it really had to be the main act, Ralph McTell. He showed why he has been a top international act for five decades. His laid-back style immediately made the audience relax and appreciate his superb guitar playing and finely crafted songs. The biggest cheer, of course, was for his biggest hit, The Streets Of London. I think the whole audience was singing the song with him. He appeared to love being in a small intimate hall, where he interacted well with the audience. Warming up the crowd for Ralph was Cork troubadour, Jimmy Crowley. His great songs were well received, as were his often lengthy and hilarious introductions to them. Jimmy has promised to sail back to Portsoy someday to the Scottish Traditional Boats Festival, with a crew of musicians, including Carol Anderson, who was another weekend guest who excelled. In fact, Carol, a very accomplished fiddler, was said to be playing tunes whilst asleep. Nothing would surprise me!

Siobhan Miller headlined the Friday evening and demonstrated why she has won so many awards for her singing. Her voice was truly wonderful. Another highlight was the reunion of Shepheard, Spiers and Watson, who were accompanied by The Spiers Family and The Gaugers. With their roots very firmly in the North East, they gave performances on Sunday afternoon that were of the very highest order.

Hundreds of people came to the town for the event and some had travelled for the festival from as far afield as Plymouth, Swansea, Birmingham, Lancashire, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland. There were even some from Portsoy, which was great to see!

Organising is already underway for next year’s 11th Haal, which will take place from 5-7 June 2020, when it is hoped that the great heights reached this year will be replicated. Folk At The Salmon Bothy continue to meet in The Salmon throughout the year on the 3rd Friday of each month for an open mic.

Ramsay Milne