FED up with spending hundreds of pounds to see the bands he loves, musician Charlie Clark decided to bring them to play near his home instead.

The only drawback was that his home is on the island of Lewis – seen by some as remote – but such was the lure of playing in an idyllic spot that he managed to entice not only bands like Primal Scream and the Pretenders to his new festival, but also the legendary John Fogerty, who is flying in from Los Angeles.

The first festival of its kind on the Western Isles, the Midnight Sun Weekender at the end of May is promising to be a unique event, with bands like Ocean Colour Scene, Spiritualized, The Lewis Allstars, Edwyn Collins, Public Service Broadcasting, Awkward Family Portraits and Honeyblood also performing.

To secure bands like these is something of a coup for Clark – although perhaps not as much as winning a commitment from ferry operator CalMac to put on an extra sailing each day for the festival, given the current dire state of the service.

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In particular, how did he manage to persuade Fogarty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame to leave his home in sunny California to play in Lewis?

“We sent him a video that makes Stornoway look like the Caribbean and I think that’s what sold it to him,” said Clark. “The invitation to come and stay in a castle in a beautiful forest for a few nights and play to an adoring audience seemed to appeal.”

While the “awesome” HebCelt festival has been running for 25 years on Lewis and attracts around 5000 people each day, Clark wanted a festival more focused on alternative rock and pop.

“Our festival came out of the fact that we always have to go away to see the bands we want to see and that can cost a fortune,” he said.

Nothing if not ambitious, Clark is aiming for 7000 people a day and hopes islanders and Highlanders will support the event, as well as fans from further afield. He rejects the concept that the Western Isles are remote.

“There is a notion that it is hard to get to the island but it really isn’t,” he said. “I work in Glasgow and it takes me 35 minutes to get there from Stornoway by plane. If I have stuff to do in Inverness and Glasgow, I get the ferry across, stop off in Inverness and I’m in Glasgow by the afternoon.”

The decision to stage the festival at the end of May was taken after checking weather patterns over the past 100 years.

“Apparently that’s the nicest weekend on the island so fingers crossed,” said Clark.

He has also chosen to keep the Sabbath as is the tradition on Lewis, with the festival running from Thursday, May 25 to Saturday, May 27.

“Keeping the Sabbath was not even a conversation – it’s just the way things are done here,” said Clark. “I’m not religious but it is one of these things that separate us from other places, and whether you are religious or not, you can take that opportunity to have a day of total peace.”

The National: Primal Scream will be among those to play at the festivalPrimal Scream will be among those to play at the festival (Image: NQ)

He is also trying to make it as environmentally friendly as possible and run as much as feasible from hydrogen power.

“We want people to be respectful of the island and the community so we’re trying to make every aspect of the event as planet-friendly as possible,” Clark said.

The list of performers was chosen by Clark and business partner Ian MacArthur over many flat whites in a Stornoway cafe.

“We ended up having a conversation about what artists have had more impact here and it was a no brainer – it is Creedence Clearwater Revival,” Clark explained. “For some reason, Creedence just resonated with that blue-collar worker kind of vibe and everybody knew the songs.

“I started playing the bars when I was around 13, one night a week on acoustic and two nights with a cover band, and every night you would have to play Fortunate Son, Proud Mary, and Who’ll Stop The Rain. My introduction to playing music was Creedence and to this day if you go to the bars, you’ll hear their songs.”

Clark added: “You would be hard pushed to find a band on our line-up that were not somehow influenced by Creedence, because when you break it down, they were a rock ’n’ roll band and you can’t get more rock ’n’ roll than Primal Scream and Spiritualized.”

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Also performing are Hearty Har which features Fogarty’s sons, Shane and Tyler. When he worked in a music venue in LA where he lived for 10 years, Clark used to book the band regularly without knowing the connection to Fogarty.

Clark began coming back to Scotland regularly when his band Astrid reformed after a 15-year hiatus, then took the decision to move back to Stornoway in 2019. Since then, he has not only started a festival and a record label but has also recorded an album and become the proud father of twin boys.

Clark already has plans for them to become a bass player and a drummer for his rhythm section – and if they turn out to be as keen as their father, then who knows? It could all happen.

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