The first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival ran from Friday 8 February to Thursday 21 February 2019, with events at An Lanntair and across the Isle of Lewis.
The festival opened with Herschel 36 revisiting their acclaimed live score for groundbreaking silent movie Wunder Der Schöpfung, originally commissioned by the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival. The event was introduced by then astronomer royal for Scotland John Brown, whose son Stu Brown is a member of Herschel 36.
A programme of high quality arts events ran throughout the festival. One of the most popular was a special Hebridean version of Whatever Gets You Through The Night, the acclaimed multimedia project by Cora Bissett, Swimmer One and David Greig, featuring songs and stories from the darkest hours by some of Scotland’s top musicians, playwrights and poets. The event, curated and introduced by Andrew Eaton-Lewis of Swimmer One, included live performances by Emma Pollock, The Sea Atlas and Ceitlin L R Smith, plus short films by Daniel Warren featuring artists including Withered Hand, Rachel Sermanni and Eugene Kelly performing in night-time locations across Scotland.
Other festival highlights included:
- an appearance by Chris Lintott, presenter of BBC’s flagship astronomy programme The Sky at Night. Chris went on to make a second appearance at the festival in 2020.
- the first Hebridean performance of Space Ape by Andy Cannon – winner of best production for children and young people at the 2018 CATS awards.
- a festival screening of Hebridean favourite The Rocket Post introduced by the film’s star Shauna Macdonald.
- An evening of dark skies-themed discussion and song with musician Emma Pollock and PHD researcher Natalie Marr.
- an ‘Exploration Day’ of telescope workshops, science talks, and other family-friendly activities, led by Stornoway Astronomical Society and An Lanntair’s education team.
- Cosmos Planetarium hosting a sold out programme of immersive film screenings over two days.
- A Valentine’s Day screening of classic sci-fi romance Starman, starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.
- Stargazing events at Gallan Head and Calanais Visitor Centre, site of the world famous Calanais stones.
- An exhibition featuring some of the best dark skies photography from the Hebrides.
- Three days of events for pre-school children in the An Lanntair auditorium.
- To mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, a screening of First Man, the acclaimed new film starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong. The festival also screened In The Shadow of the Moon, David Sington’s acclaimed 2007 documentary, featuring interviews with every surviving member of all the Apollo missions.