BOWfest IS the best of the west

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The 2013 Best of the West Festival at Inveraray Castle – or BOWfest – got off to a cracking start today, 14th September, with numbers on the first of the two day event up by one third even on last year.

One of the many good things about BOWfest is that it never sits on its laurels but is constantly looking for improvement, refinement – and MORE.

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This year there was a wide rectangular ‘courtyard’ of marquees – with a much bigger music and bar tent at the far end and the many adventures and experiences at the top end.  Entry to the Food From Argyll tent was a gentle meander through the restful charms of West Coast Living, just opposite the ticket tent on the way in.

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The smells of the food were immediately hunger-making, conjuring expectations of great tastes, delivering on them – and reminding everyone that this festival is a seriously class act. Here were the top food producers in Argyll and here, under the nose and on the palate, were the things they produce.

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The bar staff had a trick or two [almost] up their sleeve.

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The bands got the hall rocking – this was The Condition.

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And everywhere there were tables full of people having fun.

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Oban FM were there, with Station Manager Laura Johnston and the stations’s famously individualist duo of Len Ford and Iain Simmonds, musicians themselves.

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BOWfest is eminently a family festival – there’s room for everyone and there are some highly imaginative features.

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The Artmap Argyll tent was arguably the single best thing in a universally fantastic festival today.

Here was a tentfull of artists of many kinds, not exhibiting their own work but introducing others, young and old, to techniques, materials and, surrounded by tablefulls of raw materials and equipment.

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This was not a ‘just muck in’ effort, it was about thoughtfully sharing real skills and setting new challenges. Young children at artist Sian McQueen’s table were shown copies of Australian aboriginal art – created in a form of pointillisme.

They were concentrating utterly, holding the brush like the vertical dart it is in this technique – and placing it with a growing sense of the importance of precision and structure.

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There were adults whose faces were lit with pleasure at the skills of glass etching. There were artists, like birds of paradise themselves. There was a man holding an audience enthralled with what seemed to be enamelled animal skulls. And there were people learning to make lanterns, skills that may well resurface in Lochgilphead’s annual Lantern Parade – on 2nd November this year.

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If you left your eyes from the tents and the activities within and outwith them, you see the astonishing setting for this festival. Above the marqueed courtyard is the steep wooded hill with the folly on the top of it, Dun na Cuaiche. Presiding over the celebrations at ground level are the green-stoned turrets of the beguiling Inveraray Castle.

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Today’s music programme was headlined by Skerryvore; and Sunday’s programme has the Red Hot Chilli Pipers – which will certainly combat the robust weather promised by the met office. There’s plenty of room in the tents and there’s plenty pf parking room.

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This is a festival that delivers everything promised by its name – tomorrow is another chance to take advantage of the mouthwatering menu it is putting on the stage, behind the bars and on the plate.

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