TAGGED with the selling point of being “Scotland’s most remote club night”, baile/baile is an exciting new series of events taking place in Ullapool over 2023 and 2024.

The village, home to baile/baile co-founder Sigi Whittle, is unexpectedly bustling with culture and life, predominantly on the folk music and literature side of things. But this exhilarating new project adds another string to the bow of one of the remotest parts of our country.

Whittle and his collaborator, Jemima Fasakin, are making moves in diversifying the cultural capital of the north-west of Scotland – port villages are hardly the first environment one envisages when asked to picture the setting of a night of DJs blasting tunes to a fervent crowd of electronic music enthusiasts.

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Coming from a musical background of community radio, Whittle, an architect and designer by trade, says: “I had the idea that it’d be class to put on a festival on the Isle Martin [an uninhabited island near Ullapool where he had focused a university project] but nothing came of it. I kind of looked into it a couple of years ago but logistically it would’ve been really difficult with no electricity, no running water.”

Whittle took the concept and ran a different direction with it after discussions with Fasakin.

“Jemima had always wanted to put on a party,” he said. “As DJs, it’s very hard to get gigs, to get someone to take a punt on you. So it was kinda just the merging of a few ideas into what it is now.”

There is a hesitance sometimes to talk about complicated issues such as the supposed “brain-drain” and “increasing age” of villages such as Ullapool as more and more young people flood to the central belt, Whittle said: ‘I’ve always had this debate about it and now I’ve done it and often I’ve felt guilty, like I’m contributing to the issue – I’m one of the people moving culture away from the Highlands.”

This, alongside the fact Whittle knew “people have interest in these things without the opportunity to do them”, led him to realise that baile/baile “could become more of a success up north [than in the central belt.]”

baile/baile, which is a multilingual expression meaning “township/village” in Gaidhlig and “a dance” in Spanish and Portuguese, contributes to the rewriting of this narrative surrounding Scottish culture as something thought of as contained quite largely within Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Central to the hub of pre-existing culture in Ullapool is The Ceilidh Place, a hotel, bar, bookshop and venue opened in the 1970s. Over the years it has hosted Rab Noakes, Karine Polwart, Tommy Smith and, more recently, stars of the Highland scene, including electronic-folk group Elephant Sessions and singer-songwriter Katie Gregson-MacLeod.

“I was in The Ceilidh Place a lot,” Whittle said. “It’s a focal point growing up there. A key thing when we were thinking about doing this was modelling it on a space like Sneaky Pete’s [in Edinburgh], tight and compact.”

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The room in The Ceilidh Place where baile/baile is held is perfectly moulded to Whittle’s ideals.

In early November, Whittle and Fasakin took Ullapool by storm, finding the project an instant success. Whittle said: “What’s interesting is that while we’ve mainly talked about young people – which was our initial thinking – on the first night there was a massive age range.

“We had people in their 40s and 50s coming along and telling us they used to be a raver in the 1990s and that they’ve not gone out like this in a while. So the community aspect of it was really nice, as it was varied. Hopefully it will be the same going forward.”

Fasakin added: “There were people in the crowd thanking me for helping to bring this party up north, which again felt really special.”

Reflecting on other experiences of sociality in the clubbing scene, she said: “I bump into familiar faces when I’m out and I find people really strive to be supportive and inclusive.

“Throughout my life, my experience of electronic music has always been a positive one and it’s really exciting to be able to bring a sample of what we love to go out to in Edinburgh and Glasgow up to the Highlands.”

The partying of a varied crowd is not the only community aspect involved in baile/baile. Having floated the idea to “the most active community Facebook group in the world”, Whittle was put in touch with the Harbour Trust, whose funding necessitates that a percentage go towards community projects such as this. With the help and support of Ullapool Dance Festival, Whittle and Fasakin were granted some support.

Whittle laughs: “We were just going to sink our own money into it but what we were given was crucial because if we hadn’t have had that, we would’ve put on one night, seen how it went, and maybe tried another.

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The trust’s backing provided confidence, the potential to “get Maddie [Lennon, designer and fellow Highlander] involved on the visual side and to just do everything – to do simple things well, rather than cobble it all together. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been the same.”

Each event baile/baile puts on is headlined by a DJ from the north of Scotland, which “wasn’t one of the primary goals when we set out, we just wanted a good party, but it just became a thing”, Whittle said.

While there is hopefully a big future for baile/baile, though not yet confirmed in what form this might be, in the meantime, The Ceilidh Place will host nights at the start of February and March, having already done so in November and December.

At the core of the project is a friendship and a love of music. Fasakin summarises this nicely: “Sigi and I grew up on pretty much opposite sides of the UK and have had completely different experiences of nightlife, clubbing and DJs. Music is something that was common between us and really bonded us.”