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Carrbridge singer and musician Rachel Sermanni will close this year's Hebridean Dark Skies Festival on Lewis

By Margaret Chrystall

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Carrbridge’s Rachel Sermanni is one of the guests announced for this year’s Hebridean Dark Skies Festival returning in February to the Isle of Lewis.

Rachel Sermanni. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Rachel Sermanni. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Also on the programme is Scotland’s new Astronomer Royal Catherine Heymans, and award-winning science communicator Roberto Trotta and lots more.

The programme is being launched in the same week that the festival was featured on the BBC Travel Show, which reaches millions of viewers across the world.

The fourth annual Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is supported by new funding from Caledonian MacBrayne and Highlands and Islands Enterprise

It will open on Friday, February 11 2022, kicking off a two-week programme of arts and astronomy events at An Lanntair, community venues across Lewis, and online. Events announced so far include:

The Universe: Does Anything Matter?, an opening night of astronomy and comedy by Astronomer Royal for Scotland Catherine Heymans and astrophysicist and comedian Joe Zuntz, following a screening of Sunset Reports, a beautiful and poetic film by artist Juliana Capes that describes an entire sunset for the visually impaired.

A closing night show by acclaimed singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni.

The Edge of The Sky | Oir Nan Speur, a new, bilingual theatre adaptation of Roberto Trotta’s internationally acclaimed book in which the Italian astrophysicist attempts to tell the history of the Universe using only the 1,000 most frequently used words in the English language. Performed in English and Gaelic, this uniquely Hebridean take on Roberto’s book is created by sruth-mara (who produced the Lewis premiere of Julia Taudevin’s acclaimed Move-Gluasad) and is supported by Creative Scotland and Bord na Gaidhlig.

A Dark Skies exhibition featuring newly commissioned work by a group of Hebridean artists, curated by the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival and An Lanntair.

A science-themed comedy show with Bright Club, headlining a day of astronomy talks on the festival’s opening weekend.

The 4000 Nights of New York in 1988, a new live performance combining poetry and soundscapes by Lewis musician Peter Urpeth

Stargazing events across the island with Highland Astronomy plus indoor, weather-proof stargazing with Cosmos Planetarium.

A night swim with Immerse Hebrides.

Observatory astronomers Catherine Heymans and Joe Zuntz pictured togther in the dome of the 1894 building in support of their 2017 Edinburgh Fringe performance the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.
Observatory astronomers Catherine Heymans and Joe Zuntz pictured togther in the dome of the 1894 building in support of their 2017 Edinburgh Fringe performance the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.

Tickets for Hebridean Dark Skies Festival events will go on sale throughout November, with more programme announcements and updates to follow over the winter months.

A new festival trailer, by Lewis film-maker John Macdonald, is available online from today.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is led by An Lanntair, in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Lews Castle College UHI, Gallan Head Community Trust and Calanais Visitor Centre, with support from Caledonian MacBrayne, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Outer Hebrides Tourism, Visit Scotland, and Cala Hotels.

Festival director Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival back for a fourth year, and very grateful to Caledonian MacBrayne and Highlands and Islands Enterprise for their support. The Isle of Lewis is a breathtakingly beautiful place to be in winter; on a clear night our views of the stars and the Northern Lights are just incredible. And even if the weather is against us, we’ll be offering another packed line-up of indoor events, exploring astronomy, the night sky, and our relationship with darkness through comedy, music, theatre, film, visual art, workshops and more, much of it coinciding with the school half-term holidays. If you like the idea of a winter break on the Isle of Lewis, now is the time.”

Catherine Heymans, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, said: “I’m delighted to join the 2022 Dark Skies Festival in celebration of one of the Hebrides’ most famous natural resources - its pristine dark view into the wilderness that is our Universe. With music, art, theatre, comedy and science there is something for everyone to enjoy whilst we wait for the Sun to set and the clouds to clear, to stargaze out into the cosmos.”

Hebridean Dark Skies Festival tickets can be booked at www.lanntair.com or by calling 01851 708480.

Look out for programme updates throughout the winter.

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