Gerry Reynolds is man behind some of the biggest free entry events in the Highlands and as the Events and Promotions Officer at Highland Council is one of the central figures in pulling together The Red Hot Highland Fling. So it was up to us to have a chat about the event: the planning, the criticism and of course the acts…
Where did the concept of The Red Hot Highland Fling come from?
The idea of the RHHF brand emerged during discussions at the Inverness Festivals Meeting. We wanted the Hogmanay Show in Inverness to develop its own identity and its own musical style and be more than just another Hogmanay Show featuring an unconnected assortment of bands. Imagine the more upbeat parts of Celtic Connections with Frost and you will be heading in the right direction.
What’s your perspective of the bands that you have signed, is there any that you are particularly pleased about?
. My perspective on the bands is that each of them will bring something really special to the show. I have seen all four of them in action and have been really impressed with what I have seen. Of course the selection of bands isn’t just down to what I think. The Inverness Festivals team is full of creative opinions and with that comes the joys of debating the merits of Band A over Band B or defending the selection of Bands C and D over Bands E, F and G.
It is an enjoyable and interesting process but of course the discussions have to take into account more than music. We are catering for a broad range of ages on a cold winter’s night. We are not going to offer a Musical Curate’s Egg just to prove that we like Acid House, Heavy Metal, Trance and Rock to name but a few.
Unlike Glastonbury or T in the Park we don’t have umpteen stages or a few days at our disposal. We have five hours and time for four bands. Anyway there is enough new talent and diversity in the musical area that we are exploring to ensure that we are able to stage quite a few more Red Hot Highland Flings.
Having Hoodja play the event is a massive boost for a band still in it’s first year, how did you hear about the band, and do you think other new local acts will get the opportunity in the future?
Hoodja’s selection will have surprised anyone who hasn’t scraped themselves off the ceiling after one of their gigs. I first saw them at the GoNorth Showcase in the Ironworks and my immediate reaction was this was a band with the potential to make a great name for themselves. Having seen the reaction that fast and furious Scottish instrumental bands get overseas with my own eyes, I can really see them following in the footsteps of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and making a name for themselves in years to come.
At this point I am sure that some folk will be groaning because the Chilli Pipers are often slagged off for the terrible crime of taking their musical talent and using it to make a few bob by making people happy. With regard to other local bands, only time will tell. Certainly any band without a Red Hot set isn’t in the running to be invited.
The biggest surprise,for us, from the recent announcement was that of Craig Hill as host of the event, how did that come about?
The selection of Craig Hill as compere did catch a few folk off guard but we thought that the time was right to add some comedy into the mix. It came about when we were discussing Glasgow Council cancelling their show and our arrival as the number two show in Scotland. We did think about placing some cheeky “Inverness smiles better at Hogmanay” adverts in Glasgow and that got us thinking about bringing in a comedian with a huge profile in the Central Belt.
We may not overtake Edinburgh as number one but there are a lot of folk down there who have been there and done that and are looking for something new to do. The great thing about Craig is that the youngsters in the audience will be laughing to comments that will have the adults in stitches for entirely different reasons. What’s not to love about a man who said the thought of being flungover by ten thousand Highlanders made his whole week?
From the feedback from last year has there been any changes made to the event?
The decision to go family friendly and put the top of the bill on at 10pm for those who wish to get home for the bells worked really well.
The only thing that will change from now on should be the bands; because operationally it is a great site to run as an event manager for a whole load of reasons. There is a possibility that the event could end up being moved on to the grass in the main stadium if we ever outgrow the sheltered tarmac area where we currently stage the show. I would like to avoid that because we can clear the snow of tarmac and we cannot do that with grass. Standing in snowy mud for 5 hours is not my idea of a good night out as anyone who attended the Millennium Concert with Runrig will tell you.
The feedback we got last year was so positive that we knew were heading in the right direction. Not wishing to bore anyone with a huge list but as well as spectators, we are talking about the approval of the likes of the bands, our Police, our First Aiders, our Security, our local residents, our vendors, our hotels, our B&B’s, our bars, our restaurants, our ground staff and of course our local Councillors, who have to make the tough call to allocate us the funds to stage Scotland’s biggest free Hogmanay concert.
Of course the odd grumble surfaced online from folk with different ideas as to what constitutes a good night; and I recently read an argument that the whole show should be cancelled and the money given away as grants for heating. What can I say? Every decision to spend money on events is always going to be contested by somebody who can think of a hundreds better ways to spend it. All I know is that when we stage a major event we generate expenditure which keeps people in jobs in Inverness; and we make a lot of people happy.
What advice could you give folk who have not been to the event before?
What advice would we give. Firstly to wrap up warmly and to forget all about seriously overdoing the pre-show grub or cocktails. The best thing about our event is our audience and the buzz that they create all night long. We need you to be fit enough to be having a good time and cheer like crazy from the moment you arrive. The show will involve a wee bit of audience dancing – around 4-5 hours worth to be honest – so prepare for a Marathon Night and don’t forget your camera.
Questions by Chris Lemon
Answers by Gerry Reynolds
Gates open for the Red Hot Highland Fling at 8pm on the 31st of December
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on 01463 717777
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