Throughout the year, the Orkney islands are alive with events which celebrate various aspects of Orcadian life.
The most famous events; the Orkney Folk Festival (which has been going since 1983) takes place in mid-May and is a superb introduction to traditional Orkney music. The St Magnus Festival, a festival of the arts, takes place over midsummer and is a fabulous display of dance, drama and orchestras. Visiting acts are not limited to the St Magnus Festival, as throughout the year there are visits from various artists, bands and comedians, who sometimes come armed with new material, inspired by the Orkney Islands. A keen eye on the local press will inform you of times and locations.
As summer opens up in Orkney, there is even more on offer - sailing regattas take place on most islands, as well as various agricultural shows, which culminate with the County Show in Kirkwall in August. Stromness Shopping Week, a week long fete in July, has some lovely events, particularly the pavement artist competition for children.
In the months with fewer hours of sunlight, there is still plenty to do. There a beer festival, a Blues weekend, a Jazz weekend, a scarecrow festival, ploughing matches and harvest homes throughout the islands. Most famous of all is an event that takes place in the depths of winter - the Ba. On Christmas day and New Years Day, the men of Orkney are divided into two teams who must fight over a small leather ball. To the outside spectator there a few visible rules. And the outside spectator must be quick so as not to get engulfed but a surging mass should a ba' holder suddenly make a break for it! The goal for one side is to take the ba' past a wall. For the other, it is to get the ba' into Kirkwall harbour, and so, on occasion, the ba' game can become quite speculator and wet!
Folk Festival photo © Mark Shiner, Billy Connelly photo © Victoria Dixon, The Ba photo © Fraser Dixon. All text © Magnus Dixon.
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