The community of Assynt is preparing to welcome visitors for the first ever Assynt Festival from 3-10 October 2012, celebrating local culture and heritage with a fun-packed programme of music, ceilidhs, food, Gaelic, arts and crafts, walks and talks.
The region is part of the groundbreaking Coigach – Assynt Living Landscape, one of Europe’s largest landscape-scale projects covering 60,000 hectares of north west Scotland, which aims to restore ecosystem health, creating a resilient and healthy environment rich in wildlife and delivering wider social and economic benefits.
Some unusual events in the festival will come from a heritage programme, called Fire and Water, led by the community group Historic Assynt and funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Fire and Water project will include excavation of one of the most mysterious archaeological features of the area, known as Burnt Mounds, which date back to the Bronze Age.
Gordon Sleight, chairman of the festival steering group and projects leader for Historic Assynt, said:
“All good festivals involve mud, but the Assynt Festival will make getting muddy a bit special by giving people the chance to take part in an archaeological dig and maybe uncover something mysterious from the distant past!
“There are lots of other fun events in the festival programme and we're looking forward to welcoming locals and visitors to come together and enjoy the riches of autumn in Assynt.”
The Fire and Water project will also create trails for walking and driving to some of Assynt's most special places, and on each day of the festival in October there will be a chance to follow one of these trails with a local guide.
Another highlight will be a day-long re-enactment on Saturday 6 October of all the music that may have been played in Assynt since people first came to the area: mesolithic drumming and neolithic whistles in the morning, Norse lyre and Gaelic singing in the afternoon and evening, all finishing up with a bit of 21st Century foot-stomping.
The festival will open on 3 October, with a Taste of Assynt feast at Glencanisp Lodge. It will close on 10 October with a lantern parade and fireworks spectacle in Lochinver. In between there will be survival skills in the Culag Woods, Gaelic drama and songs, talks about cetaceans, ospreys and eagles, and lots of interactive local arts and crafts.
This will be the first event of its kind in Assynt and the community hopes that it will become an annual feature.
The Assynt Festival is being co-ordinated and co-promoted with the Wild North Festival, which will also include other events in Caithness and Sutherland and both groups are grateful for the assistance of the Highland Leader programme.
For more information, see the Assynt Festival website.