Jim Kennedy reviews the weekend at Belladrum 2012.

It’s easy to forget that Belladrum is not just famed for its eclectic music but also for being a family friendly festival where children not only get in for free,  are also exceedingly well catered for.

Eden Court’s creative division brought craft activities and plays, we had a the merry go round, puppet shows, face painting, circus skills all adding up to a great days activities for the younger festival entrants. The lovely Bella sunshine and the ice cream didn’t hurt either! Highlights for me were meeting Princess Isabella who was being chauffeured by royal bicycle – HRH Isabella is third in line to the throne, though to which throne is up for debate. “All the right reasons”, new for this year, brought story telling and Scot’s verse to the masses, whilst raising awareness for drug and alcohol dependence in making area of Inverness and offering a route out to folk interested in writing – fair play to them.

But a review of Bella wouldn’t be complete without mention of music. The main stage can take care of itself and while I managed afternoon visits to see Vintage Trouble, The South and The Treacherous Orchestra, it is the smaller stages that float my boat.

This year’s Highland Environmental Network (HEN) stage in the walled garden was an unqualified success. Arguably, too remote last year from the main arena the walled garden has been brought closer by extending the funkier side of the arena to meet it. The walled garden while still almost a secret, is perhaps one of the jewels of Belladrum, housing therapies, music workshops, a great cafe, the cleanest onsite toilets as well as the HEN stage. Bob Bull’s HEN stage boasted impromptu ceilidhs with the fabulous Young Trees and Elephant Sessions, as well as a fine range of young singer songwriters. Sarah Coloso  is surely destined for great things. Her single Notre Dame is out now from her website. The only fly in the walled garden’s ointment was that “Bellahung” an art exhibition couldn’t open for health and safety reasons.

Rob Ellen”s Potting Shed stage is perfectly situated at an entrance to ensnare passers by, particularly in the afternoon’s glorious sunshine. Everything from blues, to death metal to ceilidh to country was covered. Highlights were many including Def Con One, The Storm Chasers and Black Rock Ceilidh. But surely the greatest coup of the festival was Rob putting on a short set by main stage faces Vintage Trouble. I shamefully didn’t have my camera but managed to snatch a few words with Nalle Colt, VT guitarist, who very humbly expressed the wish to meet people, have a beer and have some fun.

For me, the finale of dark side of the moon by MacFloyd in Grassroots tent. While like many others I know it word for word, it must be at least 10 years since I last listened to it. A phenomenal end to maybe the best Bella yet. Next year? You bet!

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A lifelong passion for music matched with a geeky fascination for social media and websites resulted in the creation of Inverness Gigs back in 2010. The aim of the site is to help promote, support and generally raise awareness of the local music scene.In fairness fifteen years of being a psychiatric nurse never prepared me for the experiences that we have had over the last few years and the evolution of Inverness Gigs has certainly been a steep learning curve.I currently write (less and less), edit and co-ordinate most of the Inverness Gigs activities.Occasionally seen on Twitter, and  LinkedIn, if you want get in touch you can contact me direct at chris@igi.gs