Published: 27/09/2014 07:04 - Updated: 29/09/2014 17:49

"...and on the spoons, Mark Radcliffe"

Loopallu fan Mark Radcliffe
Loopallu fan Mark Radcliffe

FOR Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe, Ullapool’s Loopallu Festival, has become something of a regular date in the calendar.

"Who couldn’t love it?" Radcliffe asked.

"I just love being there. I love the views and the setting.

"It’s just such a friendly town and there’s such a buzz and it’s in such a beautiful location.

"And it’s easy for us. You fly from Manchester direct to Inverness and then you have that spectacular drive through the mountains to the other side. I have so many great memories."

These memories include watching a great set from Franz Ferdinand in the atmospheric Loopallu big top, and another year when Radcliffe’s band were second or third on the bill and being watched in turn by a little known group slightly further down the list.

"I’d had them on the radio show once or twice and I kept telling them about Loopallu and that was Mumford and Sons," Radcliffe said.

"I remember thinking: I might give them a few tips — they’re only young lads, they might get up to fifth on the bill next year.

"Within four or five years they were headlining Glastonbury and we’d slipped down to fifth on the bill!"

Radcliffe first heard of Loopallu from Hayseed Dixie, the AC/DC loving bluegrass band who were the first headliners at the Little Fest in the West, so when he did make it to Ullapool, he was invited to sit in on the drums with the US band.

"There were drums, but no sticks. ‘We thought you’d have sticks.’ But my sticks were packed away in the van," Radcliffe recalled.

"Eventually someone from catering turned up with two wooden spoons.

"I think I held the spoon bit in my hands, which gave me a bit of an odd grip, but I don’t think it made a blind bit of difference."

Radcliffe will get to see a bit more of the Highlands and Islands on this trip, the first he is making to the north with his new band The Foes.

With a total of four members The Foes makes touring a more viable proposition than with some of the bands he has previously brought to the Highlands, such as the 10-strong Family Mahone.

So, inspired by wildlife documentary Hebrides: Islands on the Edge, Radcliffe is setting off on an island hoping tour that takes in tiny Easdale, Iona. Mull, Skye and Lewis, with some time set aside to go looking for sea eagles and visit a distillery or two.

Radcliffe, who can also be found in seven-piece "full, rollicking pirate band" Galleon Blast, is not content to just play music on the radio.

"The sports teams were never my gang. When I was 14, I started being a drummer in a band and I was immediately seduced by the fact this was your gang and it ran to your own rules," he said.

"Even at the age of 56, I’ve never felt complete unless I’m in a band. Me and my mates, we don’t go away on a golfing weekend. We go away and play some music.

"That came home to me when one of my kids went to school and she said: ‘You know what? Maddy’s dad’s not even in a band!’ She couldn’t believe it because she’d never come across a dad who wasn’t in a band."

• Mark Radcliffe and The Foes will be at the 10th Loopallu Festival in Ullapool on Saturday 27th September.

Also appearing at this year’s sold out Loopallu Festival are Twin Atlantic, Shed Seven, The Undertones. Alabama 3, Public Service Broadcasting, The Vatersay Boys and more.

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