Watch the skies! Hebridean Dark Skies Festival announces 2021 programme

  • Published on: 15th October 2020
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The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return to the Isle of Lewis from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February. The two-week programme is set to include an exhibition by astronomy-inspired artist collective Lumen; music by Kathryn Joseph – pictured above – and Renzo Spiteri; talks by award-winning TV presenter Dallas Campbell and renowned climate scientist Tamsin Edwards; and lots more.

The two-week arts and astronomy festival will be a key event in An Lanntair’s winter programme, as one of Scotland’s most prominent island arts venues cautiously continues to welcome back local audiences and winter visitors. The festival is supported by new funding from Caledonian MacBrayne as well as Outer Hebrides LEADER, and is presented in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College UHI.

The third Dark Skies programme once again promises a mix of innovative and accessible events for all ages, from astronomy events with Highland Astronomy and Stornoway Astronomical Society to online conversations with fascinating people including songwriter Karine Polwart, currently developing a theatre project inspired by supernovas, and health psychologist Kari Leibowitz, whose ‘wintertime mindset’ research has generated international media coverage. Other events include a night swim with Immerse Hebrides and a film programme exploring our complex relationship with darkness. Further announcements will follow in the coming weeks, with tickets going on sale from November.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We are thrilled that the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return for its third year, and are extremely grateful to Caledonian MacBrayne for helping to make this exciting new programme possible, as well as to Outer Hebrides LEADER for their continued support. This year has been immensely challenging for anyone who creates live events, and we are taking a very cautious approach to planning our third festival, with a programme that is adaptable to various lockdown scenarios in order to ensure the safety of our audiences and guests.

“We have always wanted this festival to provide something for people to look forward to during the darkest months of the year. This feels more important than ever as we enter a winter of continued lockdown restrictions. We are hopeful that by February we will be able to put on a full programme of live events, but whatever form our third festival takes it will once again be a very special celebration of the breath-taking beauty of the Hebrides in winter. Put the dates in your diary now.” 

Lumen are a London-based art collective brought together by a shared interest in themes of astronomy and light. Launched in December 2014 by artists Louise Beer, Melanie King and Rebecca Huxley, they have curated or co-curated over 70 exhibitions and been commissioned to create work by the British Science Association and the Green Man Festival. They have also hosted residencies in Cornwall and Atina, Italy. Their Dark Skies Festival exhibition is the first time they have shown their work in Scotland. Find out more at

Lumen said: “We are extremely excited about exhibiting for the first time within Scotland and viewing the night sky within the beautiful landscape of Stornoway. This exhibition is a collection of works that explore the philosophical and ecological importance of a clear view of our galaxy by Lumen directors, Louise Beer, Rebecca Huxley and Melanie King. Lumen will also exhibit Our Night Skies for the first time, a video composite of time-lapses of the night sky, showcasing artists from all over the globe. By combining the views of the stars together in one video, visitors to the exhibition will get a feeling of the Earth spinning through space from a range of vantage points.”

Kathryn Joseph is one of Scotland’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters. Her debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled won the 2015 Scottish Album of the Year Award. Her follow-up, From When I Wake The Want Is, was also shortlisted for the prize. Her music has featured in the National Theatre of Scotland’s stage adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, and in the recent film The Outlaw King.

Kathryn Joseph said: “I feel so lucky to get to be part of the beautiful Hebridean Dark Skies Festival and I cannot wait for all of it. My dad lives on Lewis so it will be very lovely to get to be back there in all of the ways. Thank you so much for having me.”

Dallas Campbell is a TV presenter, author, and ambassador for STEM education. He has won many plaudits for his services to public understanding of science, including an Honorary Masters degree, an Honorary Fellowship from the British Science Association, and an Arthur C Clarke Media Award for services to space science. His acclaimed TV work includes the BAFTA-nominated Stargazing Live (BBC 2) which broadcast astronaut Tim Peake’s historic launch to the International Space Station live from Kazahkstan. His first book, Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet, charts the history, science and culture of human spaceflight.

Dr Tamsin Edwards is a climate scientist specialising in quantifying the uncertainties of climate model predictions, particularly for the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise. She is a Lead Author of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (to be published in 2021) and a Contributing Author to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (2019).  Tamsin regularly advises the UK Government on sea-level rise, climate science and science communication, and provides expert comment to international media and business.

Renzo Spiteri is an internationally respected multi-percussion player and drummer, composer and improvisor who has been described by the press as “an artist who constantly surprises” and whose music “touches the soul directly”. Renowned for his artistic versatility, creative use of sound and unlimited modes of expression, Renzo specialises in interdisciplinary and cross-artistic projects, collaborating with contemporary dance choreographers, visual artists, theatre directors, spoken word artists and filmmakers.

Highland Astronomy – aka freelance astronomer Stephen Mackintosh – presents talks and stargazing sessions all over Scotland. He is returning to the festival for a second year.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival takes place against the backdrop of some of most extraordinary dark skies in the whole of the UK – with breath-taking scenery to match. In winter in particular, many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula (over 1,500 light years away), the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, can also be seen from the islands, one of the very best spots in the UK for watching this incredible phenomenon.

Andrew MacNair, head of marketing at CalMac, said: The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival promotes the beauty of the area through inspiring and unique events. CalMac is delighted to be involved for another year.”

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February – watch out for more announcements in the coming weeks and months.

The festival is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Outer Hebrides Leader 2014-2020 programme, as well as new funding from Caledonian MacBrayne.

Highlights of the first two Hebridean Dark Skies Festivals have included singer-songwriters Karine Polwartand Emma Pollock, Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott, comedian Robin Ince, children’s storyteller Andy Cannon, astronomers John Brown, Nigel Henbest and Amaury Triaud, Lewis’s first ever ‘live moon bounce’ with artist Daniela de Paulis, a Hebridean revival of acclaimed multi-media project Whatever Gets You Through The Night, arts and astronomy project Creativity and Curiosity, and food event g-Astronomy, with award-winning science communicator Roberto Trotta.

For updates visit To request interviews or images, please contact Andrew Eaton-Lewis at An Lanntair on