Knockengorroch World Ceilidh exclusive eFestivals interview

with festival director Katch Holmes

published: Mon 2nd Mar 2015

Katch Holmes

Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th May 2015
Knockengorroch farm, Carsphairn, Dumfries & Galloway, DG7 3TJ, Scotland MAP
£99 for 4 days
daily capacity: 3000
last updated: Mon 30th Mar 2015

For those of you who think festivals are just music eFestivals caught up with festival director Katch Holmes to learn more about Knockengorroch World Ceilidh Festival.

The festival is held at Knockengorroch farm, Carsphairn, Kirkubrightshire, in Scotland and features musicians from around the world heading for the far flung location, and the programme will also include arts, crafts and dance workshops, spoken word, comedy, performance art, installations, walkabout theatre, fire shows and kids activities.

Can you tell our readers a little more about yourself?

My name is Katch Holmes, I'm from Knockengorroch in south west Scotland. I grew up there on site and my family still live there.

What switched you on to music and festivals?

Our festival isn't just about music it's a lot more than that. It's always been about the arts more widely and also about the land, very much about the location and the landscape. It's in quite a unique location in the mountains, I would say it's probably one of the most off the beaten locations in the UK for a festival. Even though we are south west Scotland we are uplands, there are many mountains in south west Scotland.

The festival idea came from when we had a large international hippy gathering called the Rainbow Gathering which happened on the foot of a mountain behind our land. The organisers had come to ask us if they could use Knockengorroch as the welcome centre. In the space of about 2 weeks we had hippies descend upon us from all corners of the world. We decided the following year that might be nice to put a band on in the back field and it started off very heavily Celtic. A lot of Celtic and traditional music plus also world and roots music and that was back in 1998 so we were kind of really the first people doing that in Scotland before the festival world had become so slick. It was an idea to bring people together in this beautiful place and it grew.

Tell me about the first festival or gig you went to?

My first festival was mini one held locally when I was about 16. It was held by my parents, It was massively fun and probably the first time I got drunk.

My first proper festival big was Glastonbury when I was 17 and that was super amazing, I went with CND I think, it just blew my mind because I'm from a very small place in Scotland and so I experienced diversity and an explosion of people, stuff going on, creativity. It was just incredible.

How did Knockengorroch develop?

It was never a plan to be festival organisers, it just grew and was purely word of mouth. People came back and some people have been coming since the first one and children that have now grown up who now return as adults. Sometimes we have 3 generations of families coming. We've had people get married, children conceived, ashes scattered. It's come to mean so much to so many people.

What do you host or showcase at Knockengorroch World Ceilidh?

We try and do as much as we can visually, I come from a family of artists so our stage has a hand painted mural above it, in fact the stage was custom built with timber that has come from the area and has a turfed roof, completely green but built with acoustics in mind and functionality of big bands. There's also a Celtic longhouse venue, again built by volunteers from local materials. We also get teams of people to decorate the site, graffiti artists, VJ artists.

We host all kinds of dance from traditional Indian to contemporary or contact improvisation and then more traditional festival circus or hula hoops. Also workshops, theatre, permaculture, stone masonry, sometimes some quite unusual stuff.

What has been your best moment at Knockgorroch?

I've done a lot so they do all tend to blend into one. I do remember watching Huun Huur Tu, the Mongolian throat singers from Tuva. We were lucky enough to get them and they were amazing and they loved it because they are from a similar wild part of the world.

We had Tibetan monks who created a wonderful sand mandala over the weekend and then on Sunday they went with people down to the river to destroy the mandala. People got to take some blessed sand home with them.

We had Sufis, when they came everyone was spinning with them in the main arena which was magical.

Sunday is the best day as there is some opportunity to chill. Before everything is a bit crazy and then suddenly everything is okay and I can breathe and say “yes, it's all right”

So you must have a worst moment?

Yeah. Weather is always a challenge. I remember one time in the early days when we were so far behind with torrential rain. The stage wasn't even up and the sound guy, who is a brilliant sound guy, just said “I'm going home” and people were arriving and the first band was due to go on. He was going to take all of his equipment. That was pretty stressful.

Which other festivals do you attend?

Lots of the Scottish ones. Kelburn, Doune the Rabbit hole. Then Glastonbury, Shambala and I need to go to Boomtown I think. It's good to check out other festivals.

There is a vibrant scene in Scotland but it's proportional to Scotland's size. Maybe it feels less mercenary as we all know it's other and it's mostly non-corporate and independent.

What's on the line up this year?

Young Fathers which is a bit of a coup for us as we've being trying to get them for a few years and they've always been out of the country and then they won the Mercury Music Prize so we thought we couldn't get them but asked still. But they're Scottish, from Edinburgh and we have a lot of people come from Edinburgh and we got them. I'm very pleased.

We've got some of our favourites Shooglenifty, it's their 25th anniversary and they invented a genre called 'Acid Croft' and it's quite hard not to dance to the kind of music they play. They are one of the first who brought Scottish traditional music into a new era of younger people listening to it. They've been coming to Knockengorreck for a long time.

Peatbog Fearies are another favourite and Knockengorroch regulars.  We have Scratch Perverts and we'll do a whole gypsy swing thing and Mungo's Hi Fi who are kind of festival residents who've been with us for 10 years before they were international superstars! They host the dance tent the whole weekend, they are part of the fabric if you like.  There's lots more and there are some characters our website lists so it's worth have in look.

Knockengorrech also does outreach projects throughout the year, we are community interest company and one of our aims is rural regeneration through arts so we do other projects. One is called the Droving Project. It's an exhibition with a contemporary photographer, a film and a piece of music that was composed by the Fiddler and the Sound Artist. It's touring now and there are also community projects that come off the back of that.

Knockengorroch is much more that the festival our remit is about multicultural awareness and commonality through roots music and expressing roots music and our connection to the land. We aren't just one event once a year. The World Ceilidh is our flagship event but there is much more going on throughout the year, just see the websites  &

The four day festival Galloway valley festival held from Thursday 21st until Sunday 24th May 2015 will play host toYoung Fathers, Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty, Scratch Perverts, Macka B, Ferocious Dog, The Baghdaddies, DJ Format, Mungo's Hi Fi Sound System, Aziza Brahim, John Langan, Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra, Age Of Glass, Awry, Blackbeard's Tea Party, London Afrobeat Collective, No Go Stop, The Amphetameanies, Bunty Looping, Jeremy Mage, and Colonel Mustard and Dijon Five, with many more still to be announced

buy tickets now >

The early bird offer has ended. An adult ticket is priced at £99 for 4 days, £87 for 3 days, an adult concession ticket is priced at £94 for 4 days, £82 for 3 days, Children tickets (11-15 years) are priced at £48 for 4 days, £42 for 3 days. Vehicle passes: (up to 1 tonne) £18, vehicle pass (1-3 Tonnes) £25 (including caravans towed by car/van), vehicle pass (over 3 Tonnes) £30.

interview by: Richie Cadence

Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th May 2015
Knockengorroch farm, Carsphairn, Dumfries & Galloway, DG7 3TJ, Scotland MAP
£99 for 4 days
daily capacity: 3000
last updated: Mon 30th Mar 2015

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