Chris Foote and Jonny Watt on Fife's Outwith Festival
Idlewild, Honeyblood and William McCarthy (Augustines) are set to headline September's Outwith Festival, a heartfelt celebration of a community on the rise. Chris Foote and Jonny Watt discuss proclaiming the merits of Fife to the world, and vice versa
In 1947, eight theatre groups performed, uninvited, on the fringes of the inaugural Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a post-WWII celebration of European culture. One of the venues they used was Dunfermline Abbey. Three years ago, Dunfermline Delivers' Chris Foote reached out to the Fringe to see if they'd be interested in celebrating the now gargantuan event’s humble beginnings with a commemorative concert across the Forth. "We were told we couldn’t be a part of the festival as we were outwith the EH postcode," Foote tells us, "which is probably the best thing that’s happened to us."
Foote swiftly brought together a small group of prominent figures in the Dunfermline music scene – including Foreignfox frontman Jonny Watt, who he now shares an office with – to piece together a local festival. Now, in its third year, it's reeled in Scottish heavyweights Idlewild and Honeyblood to headline, alongside William McCarthy – formerly of Brooklyn’s Augustines.
A few hours before he takes to the stage on 7 September, McCarthy will introduce Rise: The Story of Augustines with an acoustic set in the sublime surroundings of the Carnegie Library, which recently underwent a £12.4 million expansion. "They were selling out shows across the country and couldn’t afford to get to the venues," Watt says of the band and Todd Howe's film, which sheds light on the failure of the music industry to support one of the most "triumphant, cathartic" live forces of recent years. "Everyone that goes to see William will leave entirely uplifted."
Nae Pasaran (5 Sep), Beats (7 Sep) and other films will screen throughout Outwith, now a six-day celebration of local and visiting art, theatre and literature. Their designated Live Music Day on 7 September will feature, as well as the aforementioned Idlewild and Honeyblood, an eclectic line-up including Song, by Toad alumni Meursault, Siobhan Wilson and Jonnie Common performing on various stages throughout Dunfermline. Fife institution James Yorkston and Withered Hand will co-headline a separate event on 8 July. "What we’ve tried to do over the last few years is really cultivate the local talent," says Foote. "This year we’ve built on top of that."
"There’s a lot of local artists that have really taken the festival to heart," Foote continues, referencing Moonlight Zoo, riding high on recent single Survive. "People are coming from across Europe, and we want to make sure that everyone, including the artists, has a really positive experience and wants to come back. You’re not going to spend an arm and a leg here, but the whole town, from the bakers to the candlestick makers, will be taken over by this. There’s a real party atmosphere because everyone’s involved."
"We’re just across the bridge from Edinburgh and 40 minutes from Glasgow," Watt adds. "You’re never going to say to yourself, 'this is the biggest party of the year,' but this is one you’ll feel really comfortable going to. We have free stages running all day and DJs and collectives like EQ looking after you into the early hours. A lot of artists come from Dunfermline and rarely return, and we’re trying to change that culture. We want people coming up to feel they’ve been supported. Eighty school kids will be putting on their own gig at Carnegie Hall the night before we welcome Man of Moon, Avalanche Party and The Van T’s. Without wreaking complete nuclear meltdown, these bands know they can really go for it here."
Outwith – while introducing recent Edinburgh and Glasgow breakthrough artists Goodnight Louisa and Scarlett Randle, alongside acts from Malta and Brazil – is very much a celebration of Dunfermline and its surroundings. "We’ve got local cakes and beers on the riders, and volunteers from the college giving out wristbands and helping run a couple of venues," Foote says, delighted to be part of "something positive for the town I’m from" after managing festivals abroad. Watt concurs: "The festival has given a lot of people civic pride. It’s brought us together. We’re mixing the old with the new."
"Nobody is from Dunfermline," Watt was told when his band Foreignfox, also on the line-up, first sought gigs outside of their hometown. Five years later, Outwith has much to offer locals and visitors alike, passionately proclaiming the merits of Fife to the world, and vice versa. A unique and heartfelt celebration of a community on the rise, Outwith promises to be far more than a mere Bloody Mary for your Fringe hangover.
Outwith Festival runs across various venues in Dunfermline, 3-8 Sep; Live Music Day takes place on 7 Sep; Rise: The Story of Augustines screens at the Carnegie Library, 7 Sep