A Scottish Islands Festival with Naomi Hollas

This is the first episode of the new series – Newcomers Stage. This week, host Narmeen Kamran, talks to Naomi Hollas, founder of Eventgrads. 

Naomi graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2019. Naomi’s background is festival events and she volunteered at many during her time at university, going on to get a job in a festival role for six months. She then went into retail events but was then sadly made redundant when Covid-19 hit. Eventgrads started in June 2020, as a space for students and graduates who are navigating the events industry. It started off as a small Facebook group for Naomi’s friends and colleagues; it has now grown into a much larger community on multiple social media platforms. 

Naomi is originally from Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands, and has strong connections to the Isle of Lewis. The Isle of Lewis hosts a family friendly Scottish cultural festival. Naomi wrote her dissertation on the social cultural impacts of the festival and it’s where her passion lies. 

Naomi’s dream event would be a Scottish cultural festival located on the beautiful Isle of Lewis. It would primarily be a music festival with Celtic Trad music. There would be a bit of everything, from arts and crafts, family entertainment and local artists. She would love to showcase the local talent in the festival with local musicians, such as Elephants Sessions and Tide Lines. 

One of the cultural aspects of this festival would be an emphasis on Gaelic, through Gaelic language classes and listening to Gaelic music. The community feeling of the Island is very present and Naomi would love to have all attendees feel as though they were all friends and family. 

Naomi emphasizes the island is quite small and the terrain is made up of moors and mash. This may make it difficult to find the big open space needed for all the attendees she hopes to bring along. However, one of the main motives for location is the view of the sun setting.  

The festival menu would consist of local produce, one of the most famous being Stornoway Black Pudding. Naomi also mentions the festivals she’s been to before have a big hog roast which is usually handed out in a roll with chips. Local seafood and comfort food stalls would also be available, offering a whole variety of cuisine. 

Naomi loves Harris Gin, from the neighbouring island, and would want lots of local distilleries to provide the drinks, mostly gin and Prosecco. She also describes having tents and firepits for after the music performances have ended, for people to have some whisky and tell Island stories. 

Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Richard Gear are the first people on Naomi’s guest list. Scottish celebrities would include Paolo Nutini, Biffy Clyro and Frankie Boyle. Naomi would love for all her family to come to her event, as many haven’t been to the island before and she would have everyone in the one place. 

Travelling to the event is part of the journey; you can’t rush the journey. You would get a two-and-a-half-hour ferry to the island, which Naomi said is the best part. Naomi also wants to get the ferry plastered in the festival branding. The name of the ferry would be something fun, not yet decided. 

The branding of the festival would be a bold tartan, something that would incorporate a lot of fun. Through her research for her dissertation, Naomi discovered many go to the island for the festival then travel to the other islands after. It can be a destination marketing technique to have the festival, encouraging people to come along. 

Naomi wants people to enjoy the community spirit, meeting new people, gaining a new cultural perspective and have a full experience to take away from her festival. She wants people to come away from the festival and incorporate the experience they had there into their daily lives, making it more than just something they attended. 

Naomi’s dream would be to work for herself within Eventgrads, her biggest passion!

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