Rob Ellen is a man with several hats: promoter, radio presenter, organiser of Belladrum’s Potting Shed and raconteur. Recently we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions:
Your very much part of the Belladrum family, can you tell us from your perspective what makes Bella so special?
There a long an short answer to that, the short is one word “Community” the long is also very much tied to that idea, its a uniquely Highland event, in that regard it appeals to people from 8 to 80 with music at the heart, and what ever their musical taste, its covered.
What are the challenges in starting to book for a stage and the fringe events at Bella, and how do you address them?
The main one is trying to get everyone a spot there are so many that deserves one, other wise it just a plate spilling exercise, it take’s up a lot of time but it is what I do, so its really great for all of us to have a real focus where those involve have the chance to have a gig that might help us progress.
If you could pick three acts that epitomises the Potting Shed Stage this year, what would they be and why?
Well we couldn’t do it without Isaac Sutherland and Joe Paterson they are our sound men, Isaac is the stage manager, and both astounding musicians who are ready to do anything that’s thrown at them, they mixed 36 acts last year and Isaac played over 15 shows on 4 different instruments and 3 different stages and not including the parties after, they are the epitome of the Potting Shed Stage. Isaac is introducing friends of his, Present Company SAT 5PM a blistering hot Blue Grass band from Brisbane who I’m really looking forward to we have Nashville Poet songwriter Matt Urmys first UK Festival appearance SAT 12 NOON which will be a personal high spot, the Festival has an Eighties feel so we are contributing to that with Humph Family’s John Coletta, The Lorellei and Gerry Jablonski Band all people I’ve worked with for 20 year who have just got better, however the Star for me will be Bhundu Boy Rise Kagona FRI 10PM who is one of my all time Guitar Heroes and the only person I know to have a whole Guitar Style named after his.”Harare Jit” (Did you notice how I cheated I think that’s more than 3)
I’m delighted with the Potting Shed Programme this year, each of them will take something really special to the show and all of them tend to hang around and help out the other musicians where needed, I think that is what really epitomises the spirit of The Potting Shed Stage, its a place where the magic can happen and the ego is left on the tour bus.
If you do get the time for a break during the Festival is there an act on another stage that you would want to see and why?
I’ll go see Diddums on The Hot House Stage SAT 5.45 and Cousti on the Grass Roots Stage, SAT 2.10 they were with us last year and are back by popular demand,and rawk! I have to see CW Stoneking SAT 9.40 Grass Roots Stage, (have to) I’ve been waiting to see him since he burst on the scene a few years back, I predict that to be this years Sea Sick Steve moment. Ann and I will go see Raghu Dixit 7PM Hothouse we both love him. I’d like to see The Easy Star All Stars but just about everyone else on our stage wants to go see them so I may have to cover for the crew on that one. I’d love to see Dorec-a-Belle’s big moment so far on the new Free Range Folk Stage, FRI 9.45 we have been partie to their growth as a band at the coffee shop sessions this year. I’ll have a look over the balustrade at Deacon Blue and Texas I love to see the garden stage full and rocking and I did Highland Tours with both those acts on the Tenants Live Circuit , when we were all wide eyed and fresh to this work, (yes and legless to, much of that amazing time all due to the sponsors product, when Tenants put their money into the roots of the music all year round instead of one big lump to the superstars for one weekend) I remember watching Texas first Top Of The Pops appearance with them on the bar TV at The Bishops Mills Hotel Elgin, a special moment in the life of this pilgrim, further proof if needed that Belladrum a place to meet old friends. Rob Ellen friend of the stars you know me < ;-)>
Over your years at the festival, what is your favourite Bella experience?
I mentioned Sea Sick Steve, that’s hard to beat, particularly the set up gig in Hootananny in the fringe at Grass Roots at Hoots ( Hootenanny) Inverness (always the Wednesday before Bella), I always try to have someone I feel has something very special, we do that show before we introduce them to the Festival, we struck pay dirt with Steve, that was his first ever UK Festival show, this year I feel we have two, Present Company from Brisbane and Good-time Charlie Roth from Minnesota. Henrys campfire is always great (next door) because by that time all the stress and work is out of the way and everyone is relaxed and in their happiness zone, Martin Stephenson and Forest Sun kicked serious ass last year, and it was one of the pleasures of my life to introduce the Mighty King Of Love Phil Lee the year before, Geno Washington playing with Andy Gunn Band year one was a golden moment, but I really think watching The Proclaimers rock a ram jam packed full main stage from the top of the balustrade on the second year doing “I’m on My Way From Misery To Happiness Today”, was “the” moment I started to believe we had something very very special at Belladrum, then there is Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Starship, Misty In Roots, Lee Scratch Perry so many people I just wouldn’t have had any opportunity to see without Belladrum and more to come this year too, bring it on.
Is there anything you want to plug?
Yes thanks I always have,!! Don’t I ?? The Monday Medicine Show at the Tartan Heart Fringe will be video-cast on www.stageit.com with Dave Sharp and The Coffee Shop Blues Revue.
Come see us on Thursday for the now traditional Coffee Shop Session on the Potting Shed stage, at Bella, to explain, we have regular gigs and sessions on a Monday and every second Thursday at the famous Coffee Shop in Strathpeffer, all except one Thursday of the year, when we take that to Belladrum. Its the perfect way to get it all started.
So if you get to Bella early we are right by and main entrance come join us.
Check www.tartanheartfringe.co.uk, all info on our small corner of Belladrum is there. Adriana Spina Band SAT 2pm I think will go down as our “remember where you saw them first” moment this year. I’m also working with Suzette Laurence this weekend we had an amazing night in Lochinver last night she has a Grass Roots Stage appearance FRI 8.45 with her Neon Angels that’s gonna be great, and is playing the coffee shop this week, and last band up SAT 10PM are chosen by Square Wheels Cycle our non-corporate sponsors and friends, and are the worlds leading (and only) Little Feat Tribute band Counter Feat.
Come join us for the party
Thanks very much to Rob for his time and make sure you get to the Potting Shed