eye-opening Belladrum that shows you there is more to life than the day-to-day stuff

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2014 review

published: Tue 9th Sep 2014

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Friday 8th to Saturday 9th August 2014
Belladrum Estate, Beauly, Inverness-shire, IV4 7BA, Scotland MAP
£100 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 16500
last updated: Tue 9th Sep 2014

At Belladrum, you can party all night, party all day as The Black Eyed Peas famously sang, and as covered by the always popular The Dangleberries, who were one of the first acts up on the main stage on Saturday.
The rain had cleared and the sun was shining by Saturday morning and as we wandered into the site I was once again struck by just how much was going on.
Stood by Danny MacAskill's Drop and Roll area, the merry-go-round and inflatables and children's area on my right, the Venus Fly Trap tent on my left with regular displays of wrestling, street theatre performances all around us, an opera singer at the Potting Shed, the pipe band belting out traditional toons, and acoustic Anderson McGinty Webster Ward and Fisher performing an impromptu set at the Inchrya Arts Club stand were all vying for my attention.

The Dangleberries: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2014
But it was The Dangleberries and their infectious brand of Galloway pipe rock that won in the end as I got back to work and they got back to work getting the crowd going with their fusion of modern pop classics, traditional instruments and good old sing-along rock 'n' roll. Even the afore-mentioned pipe band were spotted in the audience dancing away in the terraces to hits such as Valerie, Wish You Were Here, I Gotta Feeling, Human and Run.
Next up on the main stage was Esperanza in what has become something of a traditional Saturday afternoon ska-slot at Bella – and perhaps a hitherto unknown hangover cure. The nine-piece band from Glasgow were fantastic, but then I love a good bit of ska, and a high proportion of the crowd did too, skanking away in the early afternoon sun.
And in a marked contrast of musical styles, and another perfect example of how Bella caters to all tastes, our next band of the afternoon was The Vatersay Boys. They opened with the Gay Gordons followed by an Orcadian Strip the Willow and the crowd was ceilidh-dancing from the off. Despite the differences in style, the energy and lung capacity of both Esperanza and the boys – and girl - fae Vatersay is something to behold.

Reef: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2014
90s stars Reef were next up for us on the Garden Stage. Their biggest hit, Place Your Hands, got a relatively early airing but the highlight of their set, which featured new guitarist Jesse Wood, son of a Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood and husband of presenter Fearne Cotton, was undoubtedly the magical and hotly anticipated Holi Festival of Colour.
Wee bags of the coloured powdered paint were sold to raise cash for local charity, the Archie Foundation and the Garden Stage crowd was warned that Reef would stop their set briefly before their last song for the ritual throwing of paint powder.
Based on an 'ancient Hindu celebration of love, frolics and colours' it is perfectly suited to Belladrum. Clouds of rainbow colours covered the arena and pretty much everyone in it in what was another beautiful Bella moment that brought joy and laughter to everyone who was part of it.
Holi Festival of Colour: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2014
The festival of colour meant that we missed the Top Secret Special Guests at the Hothouse stage. Perhaps somewhat optimistically, Bastille and Mumford and Sons were both rumoured to be the surprise guests but in the end it was Dundee band The View who took to the stage.
We stayed at the Garden Stage for the start ofRazorlight's set, mainly so that I could bag photos of at least one of the main stage headliners of the weekend. They opened with In the Morning but it was a generally lacklustre performance punctuated by occasional hits from the Johnny Borrell-led outfit.
Maybe the crowd was tired after what was for many a full on weekend of partying but Razorlight just didn't seem to set anyone's world on fire. We left them to it and went up to the Jock 'n' Roller Disco, which was one of the funniest things we saw all weekend - lots of drunk people trying very hard to walk on wheels and not fall over, and of course failing miserably - or actually failing hilariously.

It was one of those situations where you had to wonder if in their heads they were gliding effortlessly along a sun-kissed promenade in California with a tray of Martinis for their friends balanced beautifully on one hand, when in actual fact they were inching their way very gingerly indeed around a disco booth in a field near Inverness. Happy days though, and certainly a highlight of the weekend for my You've Been Framed lovin' boys.
The fireworks are another perennial Bella favourite so it was back to the top of the terraces at the main stage for the always spectacular weekend finale and – by now traditional - rendition of Flower of Scotland, Scotland's adopted national anthem. It was a very special moment at the Tartan Heart festival in what is a very special year for Scotland.

site: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2014

Bella weekends always go past too quickly, there is so much to see and do and learn about and enjoy, and so many performances we missed that I wanted to see - Billy Bragg, Grandmaster Flash, The Blockheads, Nine Below Zero, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Hector Bizerk, Tijuana Bibles, The New Picadillys, Capercallie, Band of Skulls to name just a few. We missed the firewalk, which was also in aid of the Archie Foundation, and I missed everyone who was on at the Verb Garden.

The only negative comment I have about the weekend is once again the traffic management on the way out – it took us nearly an hour of queuing to get out of the caravan site and another hour to clear Inverness. 

While I appreciate that nothing can be done about the size of the access roads around the site, and while the majority of stewards were pleasant enough about what was an increasingly frustrating situation for everyone, there were four stewards at one junction while just yards away from them there was growing tension as hungover and tired drivers disregarded the queues and tried to push their way out.

More even-handed stewarding across the site might have calmed things down a bit – as would extending the deadline for having to be off-site. There is bound to be carnage as 700 plus caravans and thousands of cars all try to leave before one o'clock – even extending it to three o' clock would go a long way to alleviating the congestion. Rant over.

It was another beautiful, soul-restoring, eye-opening Belladrum that shows you there is more to life than the day-to-day stuff it is so easy to get caught up in. Genuinely, I cannot praise the organisers and everyone involved enough for making it as special as it is and somehow against the odds maintaining the very special, magical and yes eclectic vibe that it has had for so many years now.

Tartan Heart is one of a kind, a tradition in its own right, a festival of music, debate, comedy, art, peace, love, fun, frolics and colours to rival them all and one that it is wonderful to be a part of. You had better get your tickets for next year's extravaganza fast; on sale in September. Don't miss out.

Site: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2014

review by: Clare Damodaran

photos by: Clare Damodaran

Friday 8th to Saturday 9th August 2014
Belladrum Estate, Beauly, Inverness-shire, IV4 7BA, Scotland MAP
£100 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 16500
last updated: Tue 9th Sep 2014

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