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Unique creative industries event hits the Highlands

10 June 2015

A unique free two-day-long creative industries event, which is part-showcase, part-conference and part-music and film festival, rolls into the Highland capital of Inverness this week.

XpoNorth (formerly goNORTH) takes place today (Wednesday 10th) and tomorrow (Thursday 11th June) at venues across Inverness.

XpoNorth is funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the European Regional Development  Fund (ERDF).

Established creative industry professionals will converge in Inverness to take part in more than 30 panels, debates and masterclasses, where they will meet and mingle with aspiring musicians, filmmakers, designers, gamers and writers.

Over 1300 delegates registered for the event last year, and this year, organisers expect to exceed this figure.

On both days, a short film festival within the larger festival will entertain all-comers with 103 films from across the globe screening at the Highlands & Islands’ famous Screen Machine. The 80-seater mobile cinema will be parked on Church Street in the city centre.

On both nights, XpoNorth’s famous music showcase, which has been growing in stature since it began 15 years ago, takes over eight different venues within the city centre.

This year, over 60 hotly-tipped acts will be kicking up a storm, including 20 acts rooted in the Highlands & Islands, and several bands which have been selected to play the XpoNorth Seedlings Stage at the Belladrum Festival near Beauly in August .

New for 2015 is a fashion and craft showcase featuring the work of eleven of the Highlands & Islands top designers and makers. Their work will be on show – and for sale – on Thursday only at XpoNorth’s new festival hub and at the Old High Church Halls on Academy Street, Inverness.

XpoNorth Highlights include:

• Live Music Showcase, featuring 62 of the best emerging acts from the Highlands & Islands, Scotland and further afield, who will perform sets at venues throughout Inverness on both nights of the festival. Hotly-tipped names include Kathryn Joseph, recently shortlisted as a Scottish Album Of The Year finalist and Finn LeMarinel. Glasgow hip hop act, Hector Bizerk feature on both music and film showcases, highlighting the genre-hopping nature of XpoNorth. The festival’s after show party, open to all registered festival delegates, will be entertained by 18-year-old rising star from Glasgow, KLOË, who recently played BBC Radio1’s Big weekend in Norwich (Both evenings 8pm-12am)

• Short Film Showcase, dubbed a Mini-Film Festival within a Festival, featuring 103 films from across the globe. Includes screenings of a short film shot on a GoPro in the waters around Orkney by local filmmaker, Mark Jenkins and Glasgow hip-hop band, Hector Bizerk’s new short film, The Bird That Never Flew, starring Scotland’s National Poet, Liz Lochhead. Edinburgh-based filmmaker, Stuart Edward’s film about his 95-year-old grandmother’s relationship with her ninety-something boyfriend, A Wee Night In, will also be screened. (Both days 10am-4pm, Screen Machine, situated on Church Street between Baron Taylor’s Street & Union Street)

• Designers’ Showcase, bringing the work of eleven of the Highlands & Islands-based top designers in the field of craft, fashion & textiles together under one roof; Black Isle-based jeweller, Eillen Gatt, Plockton-based jeweller Gilly Langton, Inverness and Nairn-based bespoke furniture maker Gavin Robertson, Skye-based jeweller Heather McDermott, Assynt-based hand-dyed yarn maker, Helen Lockhart, Orkney knitwear designer, Hilary Grant, Inverness-based ceramicist Julia Smith, Orkney fashion designer Kirsteen Stewart, Nairn-based jeweller Melanie Muir, Shetland knitwear designer Niela Nell Kalran and Lewis-based accessories designer, Paulette Brough. (All 11 designers will be showing and selling their work at the Delegate Centre on Thursday, 10am-5pm, Delegate Centre, Old High Church Halls, Academy Street & 6pm-8pm & at HIE/XpoNorth Craft 2015 Showcase & Party)

• Flower of Scotland singer, Ronnie Browne, takes to the XpoNorth stage to mark the publication of his autobiography, That Guy Fae The Corries, by Dingwall-based publisher, Sandstone Press. Browne will be interviewed by journalist, and broadcaster (and self-confessed ‘Corries revivalist’), Nicola Meighan, who counts listening to The Corries with her grandfather as one of her most formative musical experiences. (1.30pm, Wednesday MG Alba Stage, Ironworks Venue, 122b Academy Street)

• Q&A on ‘running the show’ with top Scots film director, Tommy Gormley, whose credits include two Star Trek films as well as forthcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. (3pm, Wednesday MG Alba Stage at Ironworks Venue)

• Legendary Scots bands, The Delgados and Mogwai in special one-off Chemikal Underground Classic album Playback sessions with Linn Products and Loud + Clear. (The Delgados – 4.30pm, Wednesday, The University Stage, Town House, High Street, and Mogwai – 4.30pm, Thursday, The University Stage, Town House, High Street)

• Karen Smith, co-devisor and launch Executive Producer of Strictly Come Dancing, will join fellow TV executives, David Flynn (Million Pound Drop & Pointless) and Nathan Eastwood (The Cube and Reflex) to discuss what it takes to create a hit television show. (12pm, Thursday, MG Alba Stage at The Ironworks Venue, Academy Street)

• Keynote speech from legendary Australian music promotor, Michael Chugg, dubbed the ‘Godfather of touring bands’ Down Under. In his 50 years in the business, Chugg has toured everyone from Abba to Keith Urban. (4.30pm, Wednesday, GlobalScot Stage, Mercure Hotel, Church Street)

• Beyond the Logo, presented by The Glasgow School of Art, featuring leading figures from the design world; Cordy Swope, acclaimed international designer, writer and educator, making first ever visit to Scotland, Anja Kluver, Service Experience Designer and MD of Prospect, whose wide portfolio of projects as a designer includes creating the website for 10 Downing St; Norman McNally, winner of the inaugural Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education and former head of Product Design Engineering at the GSA and Benedict Davies, Staff User Experience Designer at Google, who as well as working out of London and Paris has a base in the Shetland Islands. (12pm, Wednesday, GlobalScot Stage, Mercure Hotel, Church Street)

• Hunting for Lost Crafts merges film and cutting-edge craft, with a high-profile line-up, including; Black Isle-based filmmaker, Emma Dove, Mark Hogarth, creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides and Skye-based award-winning bookbinder, Laura West. (10am, Thursday, MG Alba Stage, The Ironworks Venue, Academy Street)

• Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival in-a-night curated by Richard Warden of SMHAFF, featuring screening of controversial Thurso filmmaker, David Graham Scott’s, autobiographical film, Detox or Die. (8pm-10pm, Wednesday, Screen Machine, situated on Church Street between Baron Taylor’s Street & Union Street)

• XpoNorth Live! The festival’s popular online radio station returns with a new name. For two weeks, starting at the beginning of June, Edinburgh-based radio production company, Dabster Productions, offers hands-on radio training. Aspiring presenters/DJs will interview the big names of XpoNorth in the relaxed setting of Blackfriars Highland Pub in the city’s Academy Street. The trainees include 63-year-old Louise Wyllie, from Boat of Garten, who has styled herself as Mancunian Agony Gran, Nana Lou, for the duration of the festival. (10am-4pm, broadcasting live throughout the festival and based at Blackfriars Highland Pub, Academy Street)

• Going Green The environmental challenges facing music festivals will be debated in a special one-off discussion organised by Creative Carbon Scotland. Joining the debate will be the Isle of Lewis' popular annual music festival, Heb Celt Fest, which has made great progress in recent years to reduce its environmental impact. (3pm-4.30pm, Thursday, The Ironworks Venue, Academy Street)

• Three Sponsored Stages This year, XpoNorth has three sponsored stages; MG ALBA Stage at The Ironworks, GlobalScot Stage at the Inverness Suite, Mercure Hotel and The University of the Highlands & Islands Stage at the Town House

Festival director, Amanda Millen, a former BBC producer who also heads up ScreenHI, the screen and broadcast wing of XpoNorth, said: “This year, the scope of the festival is greater than ever. Rebranding has allowed us to structure the festival in such a way that there is something for everyone attending.

“XpoNorth is open to anyone wishing to forge a career in the creative industries and offers an insider’s guide to getting ahead in crafts and designer fashion, publishing, gaming, screen and broadcast as well as music.

“It’s a unique event in the Scottish creative calendar – there really isn’t anything else like it. As a Highlander myself, I’m passionate about creating support networks which allow creative people to make their living and remain rooted in the Highlands & Islands. As always, the focus this week is firmly on offering emerging talent free practical, hands-on support, advice and networking opportunities.”

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