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Howlin' Fling organiser Johnny Lynch on the Isle of Eigg's intoxicating lure...
- Craig Angus
- 27 March 2019
...and why he decided to start a music festival on this tiny eco-friendly island
'As soon as I stepped off the boat, my life changed.' Johnny Lynch is recalling his first visit to the Isle of Eigg, where he runs independent label Lost Map and hosts the uniquely magical music festival Howlin' Fling. This was back in 2010 before the island's almost mystical attractions had fully taken effect on the then Fife-based singer-songwriter. 'I had just started going out with my partner Sarah – a journalist in London who had decided to become a farmer on Eigg – and I went to visit her. It's just an incredible place, with such friendly people. The islanders asked me what I did for a living; I said I was a musician who put on live music events, and they were all like "you should do one here!"'
If Lynch is anything, he's someone who makes things happen, and one invitation was all he needed. The festival was almost instantly born. 'When I think back now, everything happened so insanely quickly. I visited the island for the first time in April, decided we should do an event, and announced it on the Fence Records website when I got back to Fife a week later. We put tickets on sale in May and they sold out in something stupid like six minutes. The event happened in September, and I've been living on the island ever since.'
It's not hard to see why Lynch fell hard for Eigg. With a population of under 100, it's a tight-knit community of like-minded folks, who – through their own Isle of Eigg heritage trust – own all 12 square miles of the eco-friendly small isle. They are proud of their special part of the world and rightly so. There are museums such as the Cleadale Crofting Museum and the social history exhibition at the Old Shop. There's a terrific microbrewery called Laig Bay. The views from the aptly named mountain An Sgùrr ('the sharp peak' in Gaelic) are beautiful, particularly towards the neighbouring Isle of Rum. The history of the place is fascinating: you can read about the rousing local buyout in the community centre and, less uplifting but still of interest, visit The Massacre Cave where almost the island's entire population suffocated at the hands of a rival clan back in the 16th century.