Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival is firmly established as a key part of the regional and wider national cultural infrastructure- not only attracting a cross-reach of major international talent- but also acting as an important showcase platform for Highlands and Islands based artists looking to develop and broaden their audience. The festival has also offered a range of regional event professionals an arena to develop key skills and experience, not to mention the significant social, economic and community impacts it draws in. With most major gatherings either postponed, downscaled, packaged as digital offerings or in many cases cancelled completely across the pandemic, the need for collective cultural experiences feels more pressing than ever as Belladrum makes a welcome return to the festival calendar this summer. Founded in 2004, the event was acquired by Kilimanjaro Live in 2017 with a strong commitment to retaining the unique ‘Bella’ aesthetic that has ensured such a passionate and loyal audience. In this exclusive session, festival founder, Joe Gibbs, and Kilimanjaro Live CEO, Stuart Galbraith, sit down with XpoNorth to take a candid deep dive through the past, present and future of one of Scotland’s most loved festivals.
Following a misspent youth in the seventies going to rock festivals, Joe decided to start his own on a piece of ground that had once been the site of beautiful formal gardens at his home in Inverness-shire. Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival sprang to life in 2004 on a wing and a prayer, and next to no practical knowledge of running a musical event. The event grew to an attendance of 20,000 and in 2017 he sold it to Kilimanjaro Live Ltd.
In 2006, with two partners, he started RockNess, on the shores of Loch Ness. He has since been involved with partners in in Groove Loch Ness, Groove Cairngorm and The Gathering in Inverness.
Joe’s daytime job involves running his mixed estate in the Highlands – farming, forestry, tourism in the form of weddings, workshops and let cottages. Prior to that he had been a journalist, and a film location manager, mainly working in the Highlands on movies like ‘Mrs Brown’ and ‘The Governess’ and on television series like ‘Hamish MacBeth.’