SCOTLAND’S leading creative industries festival XpoNorth takes place in Inverness this month, representing the only event of its kind in Scotland.

The festival takes place on June 27 and 28 and offers seminars and workshops for both industry professionals and interested members of the public covering everything from gaming, broadcasting, fashion and textiles to podcasting, cultural tourism, publishing and technology.

Musicians, superfans and other members of the music industry will find much of interest, with speakers including broadcaster Vic Galloway and representatives from the likes of the Scottish Music Industry Association and the Music Producers Guild.

Set to top the 2500 delegates it attracted last year, XpoNorth is funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund, and a significant part of the festival is devoted to encouraging and supporting artists, producers and makers of all kinds to develop the business side of their work.

As well as networking events and training opportunities at the festival itself, XpoNorth operates a year-round programme designed to support those in the creative industries, wherever they are in their stage of development.

Iain Hamilton, head of creative industries at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, says XpoNorth has created around 250 new jobs in the past three years.

“The creative industries are really important to the Highlands and to Scotland as a whole,” he says. “There are about 5500 jobs in the region in creative industries, worth around £750 million. We are seeing increased numbers of young people choosing to stay in the area because they are seeing international creative businesses being successful in rural areas.”

All XpoNorth events are free and open to the public, and while the daytime schedule is focused on the business and networking side of Scotland’s creative industries, there is much to attract a wider audience, especially in the evening.

More than 50 short films will be screened at the Playhouse Cinema in Eden Court, selected from more than 2000 submissions from as far apart as the Outer Hebrides and Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. The showcase includes Reforesting Planet Caledon, a film made by Scottish Nature Video award winner Andrew Macdonald and Sundown, an emotional drama by Bafta nominated actor/director Ryan Hendrick featuring Doctor Who’s Caitlin Blackwood and Outlander’s Frazer Hines.

For music fans, there are more than 60 good reasons to head to the festival, with free showcases from Scotland’s most notable new acts featuring in venues around the city in the evening.

Ones to watch out for include former Inverness busker Tamzene, Glasgow indie band Wojtek The Bear, Dunfermline eccentric Edwin Organ and Dundee’s Beta Waves. The latter, a hitherto mysterious duo inspired by the modern psychedelia of Tame Impala and MGMT, have a definite buzz about them already, as do Glasgow trio Cloth, who were recently signed to Last Night From Glasgow, the crowd-funded label whose roster features young singer-songwriters Annie Booth and Emme Woods, who also play XpoNorth.

Another name stands out: Zoe Graham. Gigging since the age of just 14, Graham, who is also based in Glasgow, has attracted much attention of late for her airy, wry pop and her unusual way with a loop pedal.

Her biggest gig to date was in March supporting Blackpool’s Rae Morris at Glasgow School of Art. The following month Graham played Wide Days, Scotland’s annual music industry convention in Edinburgh.

“Wide Days ramped things up for me,” says Graham, now aged 20. “There was already a bit of excitement, but Wide Days really put me on the map. Even though I’ve been doing it for an awful long time, I had slipped under the radar a bit whereas people seem to know the name now.”

Graham adds: “I’m excited to see what XpoNorth can do as well, as I know it’s quite a similar thing, just further up north.”

Supporting top-10 artist Morris at the art school was a different experience to Graham’s early gigs. Her first was at Woodend Tennis Club in Glasgow’s Jordanhill, where she grew up.

“My biology teacher put it on,” she says. “I did some covers and one original and everyone was like: ‘whoa’. Though the song was probably crap people seemed to like it. It was about then I began to know that this is what I wanted to do.”

AS she built up her set to include more originals, the youngster was offered slots supporting top-notch Americana singer-songwriters by local promoter Alan Hendry. Hendry’s long-running series of gigs, called Sounds In The Suburbs, were often held at tennis clubs too.

“You could say I’ve toured the tennis clubs of Glasgow,” says Graham light-heartedly. “They might have been in tennis clubs but Alan’s gigs were proper gigs. It gave me a lot of experience and I’d always get really good advice from the artists I was supporting.”

Having been encouraged to record her songs by Scott Cowie, a session musician for Sandi Thom and associate of fellow loop-pedal lover KT Tunstall, Graham’s current EP Hacket & Knackeredis a collection of tender but breezy songs with witty, evocative lyrical imagery.

Highlights include nostalgic The Anniesland Lights and the title song, a uniquely pretty track with a quirky video set in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park.

“From the window of my old bedroom in Jordanhill, you can see the Anniesland tower, and you could see it from my ex-girlfriend’s window too,” says Graham of the 23-storey Anniesland Court, the tallest listed building in Scotland.

“It was a link-up for both of those houses. That relationship fell apart and the tower became this everlasting statue to our connection.”

The EP is a follow-up to The Front Of House EP, a collection she recorded aged 16. She no longer plays from that EP however, and considers Hacket & Knackered her true debut.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say they still really enjoy that older EP, and I still sell it at gigs,” she says. “But all of the songs were based on fictional stories, so I found it quite hard to connect with the songs after a certain amount of time.”

She continues: “Hacket & Knackered is the first one I’ve done where all the songs have a relevance to me. I can tell you what every lyric meant. So my connection to them has been a lot stronger. I played them for about two years before I released them, and even now I still feel something towards them. They’ve had a lot of longevity.”

GRAHAM says she’ll likely spend the remainder of the year working on a possible re-release of Hacket & Knackered. Brand new music is planned for next year.

For now she has a clutch of gigs in the run-up to XpoNorth at the end of the month, including the West End Festival All-Dayer with the likes of Vessels, Malcolm Middleton, Be Charlotte, Wuh Oh and Carla J Easton on June 24.

On July 26, she will support Aberdeen’s Little Kicks at King Tuts as part of their Summer Nights series. For the date, she’ll enlist her five-piece band.

“I do mostly solo gigs where I play with a loop pedal,” she says. “I also have a synthesizer beside me and my guitar. I’ll slip between the three instruments and make it a one-man band.”

She adds: “The Little Kicks gig will be the first time I’ve played King Tuts and I will have the full band. We don’t play often but when we do it’s really good. It’s really good either way.”

XpoNorth: Jun 27 and Jun 28, venues around Inverness. Register for free at

Zoe Graham plays: Tomorrow, The Music Hub w/Tom Joshua, Edinburgh, 7pm, £7. Tickets:

Jun 16, Letham Nights, Cupar, 7pm, £12, £10 concs. Tickets:

June 24, West End Festival All-Dayer, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 3pm, £18. Tickets:

July 26, King Tuts w/The Little Kicks, Glasgow, 8pm, £8. Tickets: