5 Scottish Busking Events

SURGE conflux street theatre busking glasgow performance
SURGE: Used To Be Slime, photo by TheArches 2010. Some rights reserved.

Today is International Busking Day, and musicians and street performers everywhere are gathering to celebrate. Scotland has a thriving street arts scene, so we’ve put together a list of street events that happen throughout the year. Step outside today to offer your local buskers your support, then use this guide to keep on experiencing the street arts world.

SURGE

Glasgow-based Conflux are Scotland’s leading champions of street performance. Each year they unleash hordes of street artists on Merchant City in a festival of street theatre named SURGE. The result is a chaotic mass of clowning and colour, with previous performances including a parade of deep sea creatures and a brief attachment to the Commonwealth Games. You can next attend the festival at the end of July, where two dragons are promised to appear.

Inverness Street Theatre Festival

Returning in 2015 for its sixth year was Inverness’s Street Theatre Festival, where street theatre artists and performers descended on the Highland hub for four days. The Inverness BID, who funded the project, encouraged artists to enter shops as well as busk on the street. Conflux, of course, has paid the festival a visit. Other favourites amongst the locals include Granny Turismo, a trio of senior impersonators who perform daring stunts on shopping trolleys, and Big Rory and Ochie (a giant and his shaggy dog).

Samhuinn Fire Festival

Samhuinn is a pagan festival that traditionally takes place on Hallowe’en. Participants perform a battle between the Summer and Winter kings, with Winter rising victorious at the end. In Edinburgh we are lucky enough to have the Beltane Fire Society, who organise a procession through Old Town that is free to attend. Fire, dazzling costumes, and battle cries fill the city on this ceremonial night, making it a truly unique addition to the street arts calendar.

National Busking Festival

Last year saw the launch of Scotland’s first ever National Busking Festival. Taking place in Stirling, locals gathered for two days in June to celebrate street musicians. Performers flocked from all over Scotland, proving the diversity and strength of the grassroots music scene the country over. The festival also hosted the first National Busking Awards, naming Struan James Garry from Buchlyvie Busker of the Year 2015.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh’s premiere festival isn’t only famous for its comedy venues. There is also a wealth of outdoor performances that take place on the Mile and the Mound. Both are central areas where the crowds tend to congregate, lending to the vibrant atmosphere that street arts create. Obviously the Fringe is huge, so it attracts a fantastic array of artists including clowns, bagpipers, percussion bands, and also theatre groups giving tasters of their shows that are shown in full indoors.

5 Best Scottish Music Festivals

There is something very special about the Scottish festival scene. If you’re a regular music festival punter north of the border, then you’ll know the intimate community feeling that goes with that lifestyle. You start to recognise fellow festival go-ers as you wade through elaborate costumes and mud. The friend you made three weeks ago in Moffat is now serving you chai tea a ten-minute drive away from Largs. A makeshift festival family forms between May and September, with musicians and artists making staple appearances at their favourite events each year. If you can stand the inevitable rain and the midges, it is well worth joining Scotland’s festival circuit.

Kelburn Garden Party

kelburn garden party music festival scotland largs castle graffiti
Graham Wynne Photography 2015

You could not find a more perfect setting for a festival than Kelburn. Taking place in Lord Glasgow’s estate gardens, the annual Garden Party features a graffiti-decorated castle, a neverending glen, a waterfall pool with space for swimming, and even a boat party that takes festival go-ers on a tour around the Firth of Clyde. It’s a fantastic festival for exploring, with a different stage or activity tucked around every corner. The organisers know how to make the most of their surroundings too, throwing extra parties around the year like the Star Wars Psychedelic Party in May and the upcoming Psychedelic Forest Carnival in September. Previous acts include Gentlemen’s Dub Club, UNKLE, and DJ Vadim, and revellers at the festival have even made it into a music video produced by Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5.

Audio Soup

Audio Soup scotland music festival
Stevie Powers Photography 2015

One of Scotland’s more musically diverse festivals, Audio Soup is a veritable concoction of different music tastes, boasting genres from indie to dub and techno to funk. This year the festival will play host to Bombskare, the Edinburgh-based ska ensemble that was recently voted the BBC’s Best Part Time Band, as well as electric swing duo The Correspondents and Bristol-based live dance music innovators The Inexplicables. Based in Cranshaws, not that far from Edinburgh in the South East of Scotland, Audio Soup is a budding festival that music enthusiasts everywhere are getting excited about.

Eden Festival

2016 was Eden’s biggest year yet, with a sell-out of 8000 people descending on the Raehill Meadows near Dumfries. This wee boutique festival started as a side project at Wickerman Festival, known as the Eden Zone, and was marketed and curated by young people living in Dumfries & Galloway. Eden has come in leaps and bounds since its small beginnings, boasting notorious acts like Bristol-sound veterans Skye and Ross from Morcheeba, the 90s throwback Mr Motivator, and Radio 6 DJ Craig Charles. Its local community still plays an enormous part, with the young people who started it all having grown up to make the festival what it is today. Most of the stages are organised by locals, who give equal space for Scottish artists to showcase their work alongside the bigger acts.

Knockengorroch World Ceilidh

Knockengorroch World Ceilidh roots reggae celtic diaspora music festival scotland
Douglas Robertson 2015

Another event set in Dumfries & Galloway, Knockengorroch showcases world and roots music to celebrate what it calls the “Celtic diaspora”. Dubbing itself a World Ceilidh, the festival combines its local Celtic identity with more far-flung genres. Reggae appears next to roots in an event that promotes multiculturalism and music’s tie to the land. At a 3000 people capacity, there is an intimate and family-friendly vibe, with performances from popular Scottish acts like The Peatbog Fairies, Young Fathers, and Mungo’s HiFi.

Electric Fields

For fans of indie and alternative music, there’s Electric Fields at Drumlanrig Castle at the end of August. Headlining this year are Primal Scream and The Charlatans, with local favourites like Honeyblood and Admiral Fallow championing Scotland’s vibrant music scene. Now in its third year, Electric Fields has traditionally been a one-day festival, but 2016 will see it extend to two-days to give organisers even more time to show off the UK’s most exciting performers. One highlight for EDM fans will be the stage curated by Sneaky Pete’s, well-known in Edinburgh for their high calibre of electronic music nights. With such a top spread of acts on show, Electric Fields is rapidly pushing to the front of pioneering contemporary music events.