The Lindisfarne Story Band will christen the brand new, state-of-the-art £1million village hall to top this year’s Holy Island Festival.
The group – including Lindisfarne founding drummer Ray Laidlaw and frontman Billy Mitchell – will play the new hall’s first-ever gig on Saturday June 25.
Although the Tyneside 1970s folk-rock outfit took their name from the historic island off the Northumberland coast, they never played there professionally – but they did rehearse in the old village hall. Now, 45 years on, the band will perform their smash hit 1971 album Fog on the Tyne at the hall where it was born.
The group – also comprising Tom Mitchell on guitar and piano, Michael Bailey on bass, Mark Anderson on guitars and Rachael Bailey on violin and accordion – will play the entire Fog on the Tyne album in sequence.
The seminal LP, which was the biggest selling UK album of 1972, features anthems like Meet Me on the Corner and the title track Fog on the Tyne – the song that got the group banned by the BBC. The 90-minute show will be topped and tailed with other classic hits including Run for Home, Lady Eleanor and Clear White Light.
The photoshoot for Fog on the Tyne was done on the island and the inner LP sleeve featured scenes and characters the band knew well from their stays there, including the Britannia B&B and the former Northumberland Arms, now the Ship Inn.
Ray said: “We’ve never forgotten our roots. I’ve had friends on Holy Island for 50 years and some of them are still there. Others have been away and returned. That’s the power of Holy Island – it draws you back. In the very early days of the group we spent a lot of time there. Our most successful album Fog on the Tyne was born on Holy Island and now we are bringing it back home.
“I remember the old village hall fondly and when I was up on the island on holiday recently for my 40th wedding anniversary, I saw the new village hall almost complete and contacted the Holy Island Festival to see if we could be the first band to play there. We're thrilled to be doing it – it's completing the circle.”
Rhythm and brews
Island businesses including the Crown and Anchor, the Ship Inn, Pilgrims Café, and Oasis Café actively support the event. A bespoke festival ale – appropriately called Lady Eleanor – is being created especially for the occasion. Venues will host other musicians from the region too.
Meanwhile The Unthanks – who have just won the prestigious BBC Radio Two Folk Awards album of the year with their Mount the Air release – will top the festival bill on Sunday night at St. Mary’s Church.
David O’Connor, trustee of the Holy Island Village Hall, said: “We are delighted that Lindisfarne will play the first concert at the new hall as part of this year’s Holy Island Festival. This is a fulsome and exciting tribute to the island community who have worked hard to rebuild their hall.”
The new Crossman Hall is named after the Crossman family, owners of the Island and long-time supporters of the Island. Lady Rose Crossman MBE gifted the land for the hall to the trustees. The rebuilding appeal received a substantial grant from the Big Lottery Fund, supported by local donations and generous benefactors from near and far. The old hall was closed for safety reasons in 2005 and demolished in 2007.
Before its closure, the hall was used by the Mothers Union, knitting circle and keep-fit clubs, as well as for billiards, bowls, boxing and dances. Most of these are expected to re-start when the new centre formally opens, along with a book exchange, health clinics, youth club and a choral society.
The new hall will also be used by the parish council, Fishermen’s Society, Holy Island Development Forum and Development Trust, plus tourists and pilgrims.
This year the Holy Island Festival is partnering with the Peregrini Lindisfarne Landscape Partnership. The Heritage Lottery funded project is being delivered over the next two years and aims to increase awareness of the north Northumberland coastline, its beautiful natural and built heritage and provides a number of volunteer and education opportunities.
As part of the festival, the partnership will deliver a range of cultural and natural heritage activities which link to some of the projects being completed as part of the scheme. This will include showcasing the Community Geology, Archaeology and Archive projects. Members of the landscape photography project, being delivered by Emma Rothera of yourbeautifulphotography.com and a resident on Holy Island, will also be exhibiting photographs in the Window on Wild Lindisfarne building. Festival-goers will vote for their favourite photos with the winners receiving prizes.
Newcastle-based Let’s Circus – the resident professional circus of the North East – will showcase their acclaimed family show on both Saturday and Sunday and amateur youth partner Circus Central will provide workshops for the young and young-at-heart to try their skills such as trapeze, juggling and acrobatics in the black-and-white big top The Magpie.
Chair of the Holy Island Festival group Reverend Dr Paul Collins said: “Celebrations in 2013 for the Lindisfarne Gospels identified an interest in more events for visitors, islanders and residents across Northumberland and the Borders.
“Last year’s inaugural summer festival celebrated four days of performing arts including music, singing, dancing, circus and theatre, offering something for everyone. We are really excited at this year’s great line-up and we hope the festival will become an annual event.”
* There are only 140 tickets available to see The Lindisfarne Story Band at the village hall on Saturday June 25 at 7.30pm, priced £20.
* There are only 250 tickets available to see The Unthanks at St. Mary’s Church on Sunday June 26 at 7.30pm, priced £20.