Foot Stompin’ Scottish movies

It’s been a good 7 days. Clare and headed off to Barcelona for our wedding anniversary and loved it. The heat was amazing and the food was fantastic. We also heard a great new instrument called the hang drum – a kind of wok looking thing that makes the most beautiful sounds. You can hear it played here My favourite place of the trip was the Goudi Cathedral – an amazing adventure of imagination and creativity. I hope I’m around long enough to see it finished as it will be remarkable. The cathedral is an amazing act of persistance and love (whether you are religous or not) and I really hope they succeed.

In terms of music we’ve just heard that the Arts Council of Wales are going to fund our Distil project to work Wales. This is a great opportunity for us and the Welsh musicians to work with different musicians from different fields and bring new ideas and opportunities to their music. It feels great to have our model accepted by the different countries. We’re hoping to have the first residential in either February or April. I should know the dates in the next couple of days.

We’ve been working hard at Foot Stompin’ to bring a selection of Scottish movies and documentaries to the site. It’s amazing what’s out there when you look. One I’m glad we’ve got is Night Mail by John Grierson. I’ve only seen this a couple of times before and I’m always pleased to admit that John Grierson was a cousin of my grandfathers (on my mothers side).

Keep up the practising!

56 key Wheatstone Aeola Tenor Treble ConcertinaWhilst in Ireland last week I was reflecting on as a Scottish musician getting older (38 this year) how do you keep up the momentum of doing the gigs when there are lots of younger musicians coming up through the ranks. Family and financial pressures tend to strip you of the major time you once had to practice and concentrate. In my case I don’t know where the time goes and the week is over! I have lately found myself promising to practice after the last gig and the next gig has arrived and I still haven’t managed to get my concertina out of the box.

Should older musicians stand back and let the younger ones through whilst we get on with running festivals, events – the farm? The older musician has lots of experience gained from years of gigs and stage performance and surely has more to offer an audience apart from not being ‘new and trendy’.

This maybe looks like self-pity but I suppose I’m using this as a call to action (for myself at least). Scotland’s music will be much stronger with a large depth of musicians of all ages. Scottish musicians like Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, Dick Gaughan, Battlefield Band are all at the top of their game playing all the time, recording and making DVDs (check out the new Battlefield Band DVD). Are they just more single minded than other musicians?

I need to find regular practising time again (rather than sporadic gasps) learning lots of new tunes, creating new ideas and improvisations, calling promotors and putting myself out there. I’ve always said to myself that I will still be playing at 80 and in order to do this I better step up my work rate.

While I’m at it check out the latest Foot Stompin’ newsletter featuring new releases from our great Scottish musicians young and old!

Trip to Limerick

Myself and Clare are teaching at Meitheal Summer School this week in Ireland ( Our journey there was complete madness though. We set off along the A71 on Sunday – the quickest way to Prestwick Airport from our house – and half way along it we found that the road was shut and were being diverted by East Kilbride (opposite direction). We decided to not go this way and drive to Muirkirk, a parallel road as it would be quicker. As soon as we started we both felt that it wasn’t looking so good but we raced our way to the airport anyway and right enough were too late. The flight hadn’t taken off – not even boarded – but Ryan Air wouldn’t let us on anyway. We had parked in car park in our desperate attempt and i couldn’t find the ticket – bought moments before – to get us out. I then thought I had found it and I vaulted my way accross fences to the ticket payment place to find that I was using a Glasgow City Centre ticket which never worked – no way I hear you say. I then vaulted back (I think i looked quite athletic) because we were actually parked at the barrier for driving out of the car park and no-one could get past. I then found the ticket on my seat and paid. The stressssss was kicking in and we had to decided how to get to Ireland. There were no more flights from any of the airports and the next one was 4pm on Monday which was no use. We decided to drive to Troon and check out the boats but it was going to cost £350 return + petrol + 7 hour drive to Limerick. In the end there was no option but to take the boat however we decided only to buy a one way and call a centre to check out return prices later. We were both starving and we managed to get an ‘interesting’ meal on the boat and have a wee sleep. When we got of the boat at Larne we needed petrol but I said to Clare ‘let’s wait because the petrol will be cheaper nearer Belfast’ Well that turned out to be a disasterous decision because no-one was open anywhere near Belfast and the yellow petrol light was flashing. We had to the end drive back to Belfast and into the town and locate a 24hr garage gaining an hour onto our journey time. I suppose it all got a bit smoother after this and we made it to Limerick at 4.30am a whole 9 hours after we were meant to be there.

The 9.30 get up time was fun of course and I was wiped at the end of yesterdays teaching. The kids are great though and they are all fantastic musicians. The speed they pick up the tunes is amazing. In the UK you would never get two classes of young people playing the concertina so that is inspirational in its self. Only a few more days to go when of course I will not be flying home as planned but driving a few more miles… Scottish Music Podcast 19

Our regular free Scottish music podcast from Scotland featuring the very best of Gaelic, Scots, bagpipes, fiddle, harp music, Scottish bands, ceilidh bands, highland Scottish music, pipe band, traditional, folk and celtic. Listen to it here AyePodcast 19 – Scottish Music podcast

In this podcast we are featuring the Scottish band Bodega from their brand new Under the Counter CD (some great arrangements here), Scotland song album Love Songs and Fighting Talk by Janet Russell. It’s great to hear Janet recording again, I remember her work with Christine Kydd from a few years back. Then a well anticipated release – Farrar – from master fiddle player Duncan Chisholm, he really does have a beautiful tone. Gaelic singer Donnie Munro from his new Live CD revises Dance Called America from his Runrig days, and Archie Fisher release another much anticipated CD Windward Away. This CD is an album of two sessions  20 years apart. The 1st section bit he started recording in 1999 and the 2nd is gathered from a session recording he did in 1979 and were lying in REL Recording Studios (home of Silly Wizard et al) and we finish with with Roddy MacDonald on bagpipes from his Good Drying CD. All these albums are available from

Podcast list your podcast for free

A wee tester

I’m just getting used to this new wordpress software but so far it looks good. Today is is my birthday and tasks for the day include creating 4 podcasts (well 3 1/2) and having a shot of the Wii. That latter was meant to happen yesterday but I ran out of time – again…

Where has the time gone…

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to attend this blog. A lot of things have happened in the last few months. One of the main things is that the Scots Trad Music Awards is going to be on the telly! The new Gaelic Channel (BBC) which is launched in September has come on board and will broadcast the show in December. The Awards are on the 6th December in Glasgow’s Fruitmarket and the show will go out the following week. We’re also filming a ‘Winners’ concert on the Sunday night (no venue as of yet) and having a ceilidh on the Friday (Fruitmarket).

The guests so far for the Saturday night are Capercaillie, Karine Polwart, Lau, Breabach, Session A9, Jimmy Shand 100th Birthday tribute, St Rochs Ceilidh Band and more to come. Should be great fun. We’re still waiting to announce the inductees for the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

The Young Trad Award first stage closes this week. I’m looking forward to seeing the many entries this year and getting the process underway.

We’ve been doing lots of updating on Foot Stompin’ ( and we’ve now added audio clips to all of the CDs. It looks amazing and we’ve fixed it that when you do a search for a band/performer etc you can automatically hear a clip of all the CDs. The site is now audiotastic and there can’t be many like it! It was exhausting work though but it is definitely worth it.

I attended the launch of Homecoming Scotland 2009 ( a couple of weeks back. This is a great intiative from the Scottish Goverment that was created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns birth but has been widened to look at all things Scottish. It lasts from the 25th January to the 30th November and its aim is to bring back as many Scots and their relatives (the diaspora) to Scotland throughout the year. The Scots Trad Music Awards are part of the final weekend where we’ll be in Dumfries for the final weekend of the event.

I’m writing this from Tinto Summer School. It is always great to see the kids coming back year on year, a year older. We’re very lucky to have a great bunch of kids and tutors. Hopefully the weather will stay good and tonight’s rain will be the last!