Wildfire Festival returns but moves to our highest village, Wanlockhead

Ready to rock...at Wildfire 2019 in Wanlockhead are Saturday night headliners Skam who made their first appearance at the festival back in 2013. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)
Ready to rock...at Wildfire 2019 in Wanlockhead are Saturday night headliners Skam who made their first appearance at the festival back in 2013. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

Spiralling costs led to the cancellation in April last year of the Wildfire Festival.

But far from letting the flames burn out, founder Dave Ritchie stoked the flames and the festival is back, burning hotter and brighter than ever.

Rock on...the festival attracts revellers of all ages and prides itself on being a family-oriented event which many people have  praised it for. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

Rock on...the festival attracts revellers of all ages and prides itself on being a family-oriented event which many people have praised it for. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

Indeed, there are now less than 100 tickets left for Wildfire 2019.

And this year, it’s being billed for rockers with altitude – for the festival has moved from its previous Wiston Lodge home and is now being staged 15 miles or so down the road in Scotland’s highest village, Wanlockhead.

Nestled in the Lowther Hills, it’s a village that knows a thing or two about metal – with its lead mining past.

So you could say it’s the perfect marriage for the classic rock event.

Glasgow rockers Swamp Born Assassins released a charity single via WDFD Records last June to support the return of Wildfire. They first appeared in 2017 and are delighted to be returning once again this year. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

Glasgow rockers Swamp Born Assassins released a charity single via WDFD Records last June to support the return of Wildfire. They first appeared in 2017 and are delighted to be returning once again this year. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

And Dave wants to ensure that the village benefits too.

He said: “We’re delighted that Wildfire is back this year and are looking forward to giving something back to the community that will host it.

“Local companies and sponsors are working with us to provide food, accommodation and a place for the music to be performed.

“And some of the profits made will be reinvested back into Wanlockhead.

Big break...Wildfire Festival prides itself on giving bands a platform to showcase their talent and many have gone on to enjoy much success as a result. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

Big break...Wildfire Festival prides itself on giving bands a platform to showcase their talent and many have gone on to enjoy much success as a result. (Pic: Eric Duvet Photography)

“We hope the event can have a lasting positive impact on the local community.

“And, of course, the village’s highest in Scotland title lets us bill it as a festival for rockers with altitude!”

Wildfire was founded by Lesmahagow electrician Dave (54) back in 2012.

And his mission now, as it was in that very first year, has never changed.

He said: “Wildfire Festival remains committed to helping young bands get a first step on the festival ladder.

“Despite the unfortunate disruptions last year, it has been amazing that we continue to attract a really high quantity and quality of talent.

“Everyone involved in Wildfire is in it for the music and we share a passion to give small and overlooked bands a meaningful opportunity.

“With less than 100 tickets remaining for the weekend, we are also humbled by the public’s enthusiasm for the event and what it stands for.

“Big festivals give fans a who’s who of top bands to enjoy but with the closure of so many grassroots venues we all need to remember that tomorrow’s big bands have to start somewhere.

“We like to think that this is where Wildfire Festival makes a real difference to people’s lives.

“Our festival remains a family-friendly event too, with anyone under 16 being able to attend for free, if accompanied by adults.

“The atmosphere is so friendly and family-oriented, it’s something people are always blown away by.

“We’re also really excited by the calibre of bands coming to Wildfire this year.”

More than 30 acts have already been signed, with more yet to be revealed. And among their number are eight Scottish bands.

Guy Bellamy, festival media manager, said: “Dave’s mission has always been to give up-and-coming bands a platform from which they can build a fan base.

“And some of the bands who have played at Wildfire in the past have gone on to make a name for themselves, with radio play and shows at larger festivals.

“That’s down to Dave who spends a lot of time going out to listen to bands and signing up the best talent out there.”

Given there are less than 100 tickets now left for the festival, which this year runs from June 28 to 30, it appears that the fans agree.

Guy said: “People were really disappointed when we cancelled last year so when they knew Wildfire was back in 2019, they snapped up their tickets early.

“That support means a great deal to us – we’d like to thank everyone for that.”

With shuttle buses laid on from Glasgow Airport and camping facilities available, the Wildfire team are looking forward to a great weekend.

Guy added: “It will be fantastic for the village but also for Scottish tourism as people are coming from all over England and Scotland.”

Glasgow rockers Swamp Born Assassins released a charity single via WDFD Records last June to support the return of Wildfire.

Explaining why, drummer Steven Craven said: “Wildfire 2017 started us on our journey and led us to where we are today, by supporting us and showing us to believe in ourselves more ... and we have.

“At Wildfire 2019 you’ll see the same band but we now have more fun and play each gig like it’s our last!”

A weekend pass costs £65 for over 16s at www.wildfirefestival.co.uk.

Ethos of Les-Fest continues

Les-Fest has come a long way since its first outing in 2012 at Valley International Park.

That inaugural festival won the coveted Best Festival Award at the 2012 Scottish New Music Awards. And the following year, the two-day festival grew to three days with the band count jumping from 26 to 63.

Les-Fest then changed its name and venue but its popularity continued to grow. The most comprehensive UK showcase of the new wave of British classic rock, the 2017 event at Wiston Lodge was a sell-out.

Wildfire is the brainchild of Lesmahagow electrician Dave Ritchie. He launched the festival in 2012 to give young bands a platform to break into the mainstream – and to give music lovers a chance to experience a festival that wouldn’t break the bank. And that ethos continues.

Wildfire Festival has already confirmed eight local bands for the main stage – Concrete Kingdoms (Dunfermline), Last Alibi (Glasgow), She Burns Red (Edinburgh), Nocturne Wulf (Glasgow), Sauza Kings (Kirkcaldy), Tacado (Banchory), The Swamp Born Assassins and Tantrum (West Lothian).

Leicester band Skam, who made their first appearance at Wildfire back in 2013, will also return this year as Saturday night’s headline act.

Steve Hill from Skam said: “Dave is on the ground running. He’s a proper rock fan. He sees lots of bands and knows everybody. I can’t think of anyone better to put together this festival.”

Other bands appearing this year include The Boston Shakers, The Big Dirty, 4th Labyrinth, King Creature, Fugitive, Revival Black, Crooked Shapes, Ritual King, Gallows Circus, Hollowstar, Theia, Redfern, Hutchinson & Ross, Everyday Heroes, Deever, These Wicked Rivers, Hellbound Hearts, Tarot Rats, Twister, Scarlet Rebels, Promethium, Fallen Mafia, Devilfire and Vice.