Beginnings

Colonsay is a small Hebridean island (8 miles by 3) with only 5 ferries per week (3 in winter) and a population of just some 120 souls.

It is therefore not surprising that, despite its rich musical heritage, it has always been very difficult to attract well known musicians to the island.

“The local hotel also acts as the ‘Festival Club’, with live sessions over the 4 days until 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s just a great wee festival.”

That is, until 2008 when 2 islanders decided to try to do something about it. They successfully applied for some seedcorn funding for a music festival, and so ‘Ceòl Cholasa’ was born in September of that year.

And what a success it has been. All festivals to date have been sell-outs and the list of artists who have appeared reads like a veritable ‘who’s who’ of folk music – Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, Karen Mathieson, Donald Shaw, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever, John McCusker, Roddy Woomble, Kathleen MacInnes, Iain MacDonald, Iain MacFarlane and Ross Martin, to name only a few. Not bad for a fledgling festival!

Without exception the artists have been unfailingly helpful as the fledgling organisers bungled their way to overwhelming success, and their presence at the Festival Club has been a joyous bonus greatly enjoyed by all.

Festival goers have travelled from as far afield as Germany, USA, Canada and Australia. And it gets better. Within a month of each September’s festival finishing, the following year’s event is usually a complete sell-out – well before tickets have been printed or a line-up announced!

So things look very bright for this fledgling Festival held on a remote Atlantic rock. And with our own fundraising efforts and the generous sponsorship we are receiving from Colonsay Brewery, Colonsay Estate and Caledonian MacBrayne, Ceòl Cholasa looks as if it will be a feature of the Colonsay calendar for many years to come.

Asked why Ceòl Cholasa is such a success, one of the organisers (who shall remain nameless) said “We have been able to attract internationally acclaimed musicians and yet the atmosphere is wonderfully intimate. The local hotel also acts as the ‘Festival Club’, with live sessions over the 4 days until 3 or 4 in the morning. It’s just a great wee festival.”