A t the end of a farm track on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park in the shadow of the Rhinns of Kells, you will find one of Scotland’s longest running, most picturesque, best-kept-secret musical jamborees. Originally inspired by Celtic Connections, Knockengorroch Festival has been run by Liz Holmes and her family for the past 23 years as an avowedly non-corporate get-away-from-it-all gathering.
‘There are no streetlights, no buses, no pubs, no shops, no ATMs,’ says Holmes. ‘It’s a real escape from the stresses of 21st-century life. People feel they are earthed when they get here. We regard it as one big family and our regulars regard it as meeting up again with their Knockengorroch family.’ Every year that family extends to 3000 members. There are no plans to expand capacity but, as Holmes says, ‘we won’t stand still, you can’t do the same thing as last year. You’ve got to go searching for something top quality. We are picky and rightly so. A music festival has got to produce inspirational music that will uplift and inspire the audience.’
Over the years, Knockengorroch has struck an enviable balance between local engagement – any profit goes back into the festival or to community projects in Galloway – and an international perspective, thanks to its policy of booking primo world music talent such as Tuareg desert rocker Kel Assouf who will feature this year alongside homegrown folk fusioneers Afro Celt Sound System, Shooglenifty, The Poozies and Moishe’s Bagel.
‘I know that we’ve changed the listening preferences and expanded the musical experiences of our regular customers,’ says Holmes. ‘We’re very proud of changing people’s lives for the better, making them appreciate more. People come away from the event saying “I’m a better person now”. Wow! That’s really far-reaching.’
Knockengorroch Festival, Castle Douglas, postponed to Thu 10–Sun 13 Sep due to the COVID-19 virus.
Fiona Shepherd shines a spotlight on Knockengorroch, Galloway’s small but perfectly formed music festival
Afro Celt Sound System WONDER
38 THE LIST 1 Apr–31 May 2020