The monied members of the Victorian huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ set around Biggar would be birling in their graves if they knew what was going on these days at one of their old haunts.
Instead of a base for pursuing wildlife, Wiston Lodge is now home to Wildfire with the sound of hounds and huntsmens’ horns replaced by some of the most exciting, innovative rock music being produced in the nation today.
Since the annual festival began back in 2014, it has won a growing reputation for being a showcase for mainly Scottish, grassroots talent – with some veteran acts thrown in for good measure.
It has become something of a sounding board for not only what’s happening in homegrown rock music but what’s about to happen too.
The organisers also pride themselves in making it possibly the best value-for-money music festival in the United Kingdom.
Some have commented that it boasts music every bit as good as T-in-the-Park ... without having to take out a second mortgage to hear it!
This year’s Wildfire takes place over the long weekend of Friday, June 22, to Sunday, June 24.
Perhaps because of its reputation, the festival is now attracting a growing roster of bands and the first 20 to sign up have now been announced.
Old friends and founder members of the festival since it began, Massive Wagons head this year’s bill on the rock stage on the Sunday.
Described by the organisers as “a rising band Wildfire has backed from the very beginning”, they return on what many expect will be the band’s defining year, following their recent major label deal with Earache Records.
To describe Saturday headliners Lionheart as an experienced act is a bit of an understatement given that its members cut their musical teeth with the likes of Iron Maiden, MSG, UFO and Shy.
An old friend of Wildfire comes in the form of Wil Taylor, Wil having been a member of Inglorioius who were a major hit at the 2016 gathering at Wiston.
He will appear with his new band Deever in what will be one of their first summer festival appearances of 2018.
The organisers show their commitment to giving the ‘new wave of British rock’ a public stage by inviting back evolving rock bands, Hellbound Hearts, Empyre, Theia and Cairo Son.
Fresh to the Wiston stage are growing talents Florence Black, Italian rockers Dobermann, Tomorrow is Lost, Tarot Rats and Midnite City.
Dave Ritchie, Wildfire Festival organiser, said: “More than 70 bands will appear across three stages for a weekend event that showcases the best of great new, established and emerging rock/metal talent.
“Already we have booked bands from all corners of the UK and we will be announcing our next 20 bands for Wildfire 2018 shortly.
“As Scotland’s summer rock festival, we will be investing heavily in breakthrough Scottish bands this year and Sauza Kings are the first of crop of local talent we will be having on our stages this summer.
“Wildfire 2018 will be a great celebration of everything that’s right on the rock scene in Britain today – and everyone’s welcome to come along and join the party!”
The first 20 bands signed for Wildfire 2018 are: Lionheart, Massive Wagons, Black Cat Bones, Cairo Son, Deever, Doberman, Empyre, Falling Red, Florence Black, Hellbound Hearts, Louder Still, Midnite City, Ritual King, Sauza Kings, Tarot Rats, The New Breed, Theia, Tomorrow is Lost, Western Sand and Witch Tripper.
And there are around 50 more acts still to be announced!
As they say, watch this space....
Dave added: “The free campsite opens at 7am on the Friday and we welcome tents, tourers, campervans and trailer tents.
“There will also be glamping options of pods, wooden huts and furnished yurts available via the website from February 1.
“We do have very limited accommodation in the main Lodge itself; these are large dorm rooms that would suit parties of six or more.
“And there are a number of local hotels and B&B’s in the area for those that like their home comforts.”
Ticket options for early bookers are: adult weekend ticket £75, concession weekend ticket 13-17 years £20, child weekend ticket 0-12 £3.
For more information on the event visit www.wildfirefestival.co.uk.
Lodge’s unique life...
For many years now Wiston Lodge has been a major asset, not only to the wider area but to the whole country.
The charity running it sets out its own mission statement by saying: “Wiston Lodge provides physical, mental and spiritual challenges in a safe and sheltered residential environment for all users, but especially young people who are vulnerable and at risk; enabling the development of respect for oneself, others and for the environment and encouraging lifestyles which are simple, non-violent and free from destructive dependencies.”
If self-improvement is one of the main aims of the Lodge today, this fits well with the very origins of the building.
Indeed, its very creation reads like a classic tale of Victorian-era aspiration.
Constructed in the 1850s as a hunting lodge, it was the kind of structure associated with the pastimes of the idle rich of that era. However, the man who built it, James Ferguson, had VERY different roots from that particular social set.
In fact, he started out life in very humble circumstances. He came from a mining family from the Clydesdale village of Auchenheath but his keen business brain saw him escape this lowly position in society and make a fortune as a mineowner from gas coal.
A later owner, a Mr McGregor, saw its concert hall added in the 1930s to stage local entertainments and the next stage in this handsome building’s history came with the start of World War Two.
Wiston Lodge was ‘called up’ for the duration to serve the very useful function as a school for children evacuated to the rural area to escape German bombing of their native towns and cities. After the war the building passed into the ownership of the YMCA.