The Iris – Kelly Craig

Theatre of Trees

Kelly Craig

There’s a real buzz about Fresh Ayr Fest, Ayrshire’s new Folk Music Festival. Leafy Rozelle Park will come to life this summer to host a brand-new family-friendly music festival and everybody’s talking about it. There’s going to be camping, live music workshops, outdoor activities for the wee ones, circus workshops and over 25 world-class music acts taking to the three stages that will bring this natural theatre to life in August 2023.

It’s just what the town needs, and I met with Blair Parham, the Festival Director, to find out more about Fresh Ayr Fest and the man behind it. I don’t know where to begin with Blair’s CV, it’s so impressive. He’ll be bringing more than 20 years of experience of worldwide music festivals home to Ayr this summer, and there’s so much to get excited about. Blair has travelled the world creating, producing and performing music and this year he will realise a long-time ambition of bringing a folk music festival to his hometown of Ayr.

He’s a well-known face locally as Musical Director of The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra and former Assistant Musical Director of The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra. In 2017 he left a career in teaching to start production company, Scotia Arts, and he has never looked back. He’s Executive Director of Stirling Bridge International Arts Festival and Co-directs a Scottish Music Festival in China. Who better than Blair to bring a Folk Music Festival to the South West Coast?

“I’ve wanted to bring a festival to my hometown for a long time,” said Blair. “I’ve travelled around Scotland and overseas with my work, but Ayr and Ayrshire aren’t visited by many artists in the Scottish folk and traditional music scene, so people usually have to travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh to see acts like those that we will be bringing to Fresh Ayr Fest.”

He can’t wait to tell me all about the exciting three-day event that’s in store. It will be the first of its kind in Ayr, a family-friendly festival with music acts like Manran, Blazin Fiddles and Talisk taking to the stage. There’s going to be an eco-friendly campsite, with Yoga to wake up to each morning, plus den building and bushcraft, juggling and circus classes and chance to hone your skills at the music workshops taking place over the weekend. Festival-goers will need their dancing shoes for the ceilidh tent at night and they’ll be giving it laldy to the uplifting sound of Glasgow’s fabulous Kinnarris Quintet when they bring the stage alive with their dynamic sound.

The natural amphitheatre of Rozelle is the perfect venue for this and Blair speaks passionately about bringing an event with world-class artists to Ayrshire. It’s important to him to keep it local and he will be using local suppliers and food vendors for the event. “Ayr has so much potential for a family-friendly festival,” says Blair, and with so much local talent he’s looking forward to seeing The Alistair McCulloch Trio and local fiddle player Lauren Collier and her band on the stage. He’s confident about attracting tourists from all across Scotland to what he hopes is the first of many Fresh Ayr Fest weekends. With a line up like this one, it looks like it’s going to be, and our wee town is so looking forward to this.