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Boost for local music scene as past UHI students tune-in online for live extravaganza

By Alasdair Fraser

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UHI's alumni artists ready for live online performances
UHI's alumni artists ready for live online performances

An array of talented musical acts with links to the Highlands’ leading educational establishment are being brought together live online in a boost to the industry.

Past students of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) will be paid to take part in the institution’s first ‘live stream music tour' in a show of support for the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

#UHIMusicLive will host two music sessions, every Wednesday and Friday night, for four weeks from this Wednesday.

All performers, alumni of the university, will play a 45-minute live set on Facebook.

Some fees are being donated by several individuals and companies who want to show their support during difficult times for the creative industry.

Explaining how the initiative came together, Pete Honeyman, UHI’s creative and cultural industries subject network leader, said: "The University of the Highlands and Islands has been at the forefront of music education in Scotland for many years and we offer support to our students for life.

“These are extremely challenging times for the music industry, with live music forbidden and social distancing requirements making it almost impossible for group music-making to take place.

“We wanted to find a way to support our alumni.

"We've creatively combined our skills and resources to design, produce, promote and, importantly, make sure the performers are paid a fee, which has been achieved through the generosity of donors.

"We have been privileged to watch many of our alumni grow and maintain successful careers, entertaining many with live performances at venues locally and world-wide.

“These range from working bands and artists such as Julie Fowlis, The Rezillos, Nazareth, Stiltskin, Runrig, Wolfstone, Belle and Sebastian, Texas and many more.

“#UHIMusicLive will allow this tradition to continue whilst we patiently await a return to live music."

Applied music graduate Nicky Murray, who studied at North Highland College UHI, is one of the alumni performing.

He said: "It is very sweet to be invited to play and to still feel part of the University of the Highlands and Islands community.

“To be looked out for and to be given work opportunities feels very nice.

“Many graduates are trying out their first year of freelance, and to arrive at the world in the state that it is in at the moment has rendered many of these musicians below the poverty line. This is a great help."

Erin Ponsonby, a popular music graduate at Perth College UHI who will also be performing, added: "I am so grateful to have been asked to perform at the #UHIMusicLive online gig and also to be paid for my performance, especially during these times.

“Covid is preventing musicians all over the world from performing live.

“After the release of my Little Town EP in April, my plan was to be touring Scotland but unfortunately Covid-19 measures prevented me from doing so as all my gigs this year have been cancelled.

“Being able to perform live again, even to a virtual audience, is very exciting and I look forward to watching the other artists too.

“This goes to show that even after graduating, the University of the Highlands and Islands continues to support their musicians in every way that they can which is very humbling."

Alison Wilson, head of development at UHI, is encouraging other businesses and individuals to donate by emailing development@uhi.ac.uk or visit the website www.uhi.ac.uk/development.

Those wishing to watch the live performances should visit the university's Facebook page every Wednesday and Friday night at 8.30pm for four weeks from November 18.

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