To celebrate Belhaven Brewery’s 300th birthday, they are having a massive music party – & everybody is invited!
Hello Gordon, first thing’s first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Inverness and these days I live in Torphichen, near Linlithgow.
Aha! What do you think of Party at the Palace, we were there a few weeks back?
It’s a great event and has quickly become a fixture of the summer. It’s a wonderful backdrop and the location in the middle of town makes for a really nice mixed crowd.
Can you tell us about your role at the Belhaven Brewery & how you got the job?
I’m the marketing controller at Belhaven Brewery. I’ve worked in drinks marketing – soft drinks, spirts, coffee and now beer – for most of my career. It’s not that I’m a particularly thirsty individual, it’s just how things worked out. The day to day of my job at Belhaven involves everything that generates demand for our lovely beers. That might be advertising, events, sponsorship, social media or packaging design as well as new product development, which can be a lot of fun and involve a certain amount of tasting.
Can you tell us about the Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Scottish Music?
The Belhaven Bursary is an initiative that was born out of a partnership with the Festival Interceltique de Lorient a few years back when Scotland was the country of honour. We started by sponsoring the beer tent but when we saw the energy and excitement around up and coming new Scottish folk music and the connection that it made with the crowd, we thought it was something we should explore. My main job is telling the story of a brewery that is all about old and new, proud of its tradition yet forward-looking and innovative; and this fabulously creative and still distinctly Scottish music just encapsulated that perfectly. Showcase Scotland Expo were the organisers of the Scottish presence at Lorient that year and we worked with them on a few ideas as to how we could best get involved in the scene and make a meaningful difference. So the idea of the Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Scottish Music was born, as a major award to grant to musicians at a stage in their career where they could use the funds and the exposure as a springboard and hopefully be able to take new creative risks and attract new audiences.
What is it about live music that makes you tick?
It’s the energy of it that makes live music so magical, and the fact that the people up on the stage are really playing stuff they love that you’re enjoying in a shared experience with the rest of the audience. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation when a band takes to the stage or the euphoria of a brilliant finale.
So there’s a big event lined-up by Belhaven, can you tell us the about the reasoning behind it?
Well yes, it’s Belhaven Brewery’s 300th birthday this year – quite an amazing achievement and one that we wanted to mark with a great big party. We’re Scotland’s oldest working brewery but we’re always looking forwards so it was important to us to celebrate as a vibrant, current brewery rather than a brewing museum. A live music festival – the Belhaven Birthday Bash – was the obvious way to bring together a great event, situated at the brewery and drawing on the work we’ve done with the Belhaven Bursary.
How were the acts selected & who have you got for us?
We knew from the off that the bill should celebrate the breadth and diversity of music with a Scottish folk flavour – again that reflects us as a brewery rooted in its Scottishness and taking on all sorts of influences from around the world. We worked with Active Events/ Showcase Scotland on putting together a line up with that idea at its centre. So, in alphabetical order, we have Assynt, Breabach, Capercaillie, Dougie Maclean, Elephant Sessions, Kinnaris Quintet, Niteworks, Talisk and Tidelines.
It seems you are going for a more traditional Scottish folk sound, why is that?
We’re proudly Scottish and trade on our “Scottishness” in export markets around the world (around 30% of our beer goes overseas) so we’re always looking for ways to celebrate a fresh, relevant take on Scottish culture and I think the breadth of our line up does a great job of that.
What else does the festival have to offer aside from the music?
We will of course have amazing beers available, along with food and drink and, as a family-friendly event, we’ll have some children’s activities going on too. On Sunday 22nd we have a brewery open day where we won’t have acts on the main stage but visitors can come in for a half-price brewery tour and soak up what I hope will be a lovely chilled out (and, fingers-crossed, sunny) atmosphere.
Is this going to be a one-off, or are there plans for a 2020 festival?
What a thought! Let’s get this one under our belts and you can ask me again afterwards!