Contributors 2017

ColumbaFest logo (Iona Abbey stain glass window) with banner + dates

Full Programme with Timings & Venues here.

Ashton Lane [Sunday]

Ashton Lane's Esther & Tim beside a sandstone wall

Local Glasgow wonders and country band Ashton Lane have a romantic back-story and come from fine musical stock. They are husband and wife duo, Esther and Tim O’Connor, and they are part of a new wave of homegrown modern country music originating in Scotland and the UK.

Last year Ashton Lane performed at the famous Country 2 Country festival in London, as well as receiving nominations in two categories at the BCMAs (British Country Music Awards) for best duo and best song. They also played an impressive set at McEwan’s Party At The Palace in August, and toured extensively round Europe. They’ll be performing at ColumbaFest on Sunday evening, fresh (and jet-lagged, no doubt) from having performed at the Isle Of Wight Festival a mere 24 and a wee bit hours earlier!

2017 sees Ashton Lane gearing up towards the release of 3 new singles and an album to follow. They are previewing some of their brand new songs via their highly popular “Kitchen Sessions” (over 1.6 million views and counting).

They are heading back on tour round Europe twice in 2017, plus performing a string of UK dates. They’ve also been invited to join the line-up for Millport Country Festival, I in September 2017 along with the Shires and Mark Chesnutt, as well as the line up for the world famous Isle of Wright festival in June 2017.

Their most recent album Nashville Heart also received five star reviews and radio support around the UK and Europe.

Booking or media enquires

John L. Bell [Saturday & Sunday]

… is a preacher, hymnwriter, composer, lecturer and broadcaster and resource worker with the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community. He is a past convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Panel on Worship and the committee that produced the ground-breaking Church Hymnary 4. In 1999, he was honoured by the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the Royal School of Church Music which bestowed a Fellowship on him. In 2002, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow. In 2013, he was awarded the Community of Christ International Peace Award.

John has produced many collections of liturgy, scripts, sermons and reflections, original hymns and songs, most of which are published by Wild Goose Publications and by GIA Publications in North America. He lectures in theological colleges in Britain and US, but is primarily concerned with the renewal of congregational worship at grass roots level.

John hails from Kilmarnock and like Johnnie Walker, the ubiquitous creator of the world-wide whisky, John shares an affection for colourfully, distinctive dressing (without the top hat, red coat, white britches and black knee-length boots).

The BERT Community [Saturday]

BERT - Map of Albert Cross in PollokshieldsThe BERT community are a bunch of faithful folk, who have been living, working and witnessing in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow for the last three decades (plus a wee bit). They share a communal life, that consists of weekly worship, study, hospitality and mutual accountability for their money and other resources, seeking to emulate the same principles of many base Christian communities throughout the world.

Luke Devlin [Saturday]

Luke Devlin is a member of the Glasgow Catholic Worker apostolate, director of the Centre for Human Ecology and a doctoral researcher at the Intercultural Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University, researching the cultural and religious heritage and human ecology of the river Clyde. He specialises in participatory action research and community empowerment, with a background in faith-based community development and crisis response inspired by liberation theology.

Luke will be leading a workshop on ‘In the Waterscape of St Columba: Radical Discipleship in Stormy Times‘: The lives of the saints are not simply pious stories to be admired, but blueprints of possible ways of being in the world. Columba’s time and place seem distant, but by drawing out startling and often hidden resonances- and connections between Iona and the Clyde- we can draw closer than we might expect. We may find the encouragement and hope we need to navigate the ominous waters we inhabit today can be drawn from the same deep sources that inspired these unreasonable monks to set out on their mission with no strength or security other than their faith. More info

Fischy Music

Fischy Music works with up to 20,000 children every year in primary schools across the UK and their songs – full of hope and humour – such as Build Up, You Are A Star and Stronger are widely used in both schools and churches. They have just released their latest album, Sing To Make You Feel Good.

Fischy Music resources equip adults to support children’s well-being. As a result, hundreds of schools sing their songs and reflect on the meaning behind the songs every year. They also work directly with thousands of children every year – from those facing the challenges of everyday life, to smaller, more in-depth groups of children facing significant emotional challenges, such as loss and grief.

Throughout this work, they emphasise the uniqueness, creativity and worth of every child and produce memorable, easy to learn, fun songs that any child can sing.

More about Fischy

The In-Laws [Friday]

Steve Butler and daughter-in-law Suzanne may not be household names, but have been quietly responsible for a huge output of music for a combined total of around 6 decades.

As a writer and performer for acclaimed children’s music organisation, Fischy Music, Suzanne has written and performed many of their best-known songs, and has been in constant demand as a singer, fiddler, song writer and music leader since her late teens.

Steve has been a singer-songwriter and music producer since the 1970’s and had a Virgin Music recording contract with his band ‘Lies Damned Lies‘  in the 1990’s before setting up ‘Heaven’ recording studio in Ayrshire – and later taking up his current role as Rector of a very music-focused Episcopal church in Edinburgh.

Steve and Suzanne have been working together on a variety of projects since 2002, and this concert is a rare opportunity to take a guided tour through their creative output, and their own all-time favourite songs  – both secular and sacred.

Both gifted performers with compelling voices, their family connection enhances their musical team-work to produce a rich, soulful and emotive sound. Beautifully supported by piano, guitar, fiddle and percussion, they cover a wide range of music in their own distinctive mellow style – reminiscent at times of Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, with a strand of Scottish folk woven throughout.

If you enjoy classic song-writing, and appreciate the way in which music can help us explore our responses to life, faith and feelings, The In-Laws in concert will provide musicality to savour.

Mary Ann Kennedy [Saturday]

Mary Ann Kennedy image - laughing

An urban Gael from multi-cultural Glasgow, Mary Ann Kennedy’s life has been one of music. A member of the ‘first family of Gaelic music’, The Campbells of Greepe, her earliest memories are of a home filled with songs of community, history, work and worship from their exile island of Skye. A hothouse classical training – and a brief diversion running the BBC’s Gaelic news service – sees her today as musician, singer, broadcaster, conductor, composer and producer, based at her creative Highland hub, Watercolour Music, with husband and fellow musician-producer Nick Turner.

Most of her life has been making music with others – collaborating, nurturing, chivvying and inspiring. A founder member of Cliar, winners of the ‘All-time Best Album’ at the first Scots Trad Music Awards, she is also twice winner of the Lorient Concours International de l’Harpe, double Mòd gold medallist (Gaeldom’s premier festival), and Saltire Award winner for ground-breaking choral work, Lasair Dhè.

She formed the tri-Gaelic project Aon Teanga through PRS flagship, Beyond Borders; produced award-winning albums and a biography with her family; was commissioned in the first UK New Music Biennial, and has been in residence at Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and Aberdeen Music Hall.

Now, after years of writing and recording, she is stepping forward as a solo artist, with two albums reflecting her passion for tradition and fearless engagement with new Gaelic music and songwriting. Her debut solo on ARC Music is An Dàn – the first-ever complete album of new Gaelic songs, and a unique collection of her original music with lyrics by herself and some of Gaeldom’s greatest poets. And having taken 30 years over the first one, the albums are like buses – ‘Glaschu (2018) will be a love-song to her Glasgow Gaidhealtachd upbringing.

Deborah Lewer [Sunday]

Debbie is Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow. She writes and teaches on art in Europe, and is a specialist in 20th-century German art. She is fascinated by the rich, complex and sometimes fraught relationship between art and Christianity in the past and today. Outside the University Debbie is a regular speaker and workshop leader on art and faith in churches, on retreats, at festivals and in theological colleges across the UK. More info

Jo Love [Sunday]

Jo is a pedagogue, arts worker, investigator, writer and critical questioner, who likes drawing people into creative thinkings and doings. Inveterate journal keeper and articulator of incisive observations, she has also trained as a primary school teacher. She is an ordained deacon of the Church of Scotland and a Member of the Iona Community.  Jo worked for several years in urban parishes, with much involvement in youth and children’s work, faith exploration and enabling creativity in worship. She is qualified in primary teaching and is also a long-term member of the Holy City planning group.

Born and dragged up in the Kingdom (that is, … Fife), she has a surprisingly normal and engaging personality. She occasionally indulges her love of driving lorries and clearing beaches of flotsam and jetsam. Drawing others into creative thinkings and doings is her passion and delight.

Ishbel McFarlane/ Feral Arts: ‘O Is For Hoolet’ [Friday]

Ishbel McFarlane is a native of Kincardine. Her theatrical show (which ColumbaFest is delighted host on the evening of Friday 9th June), ‘O Is For Hoolet‘ first saw light during the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe to much acclaim. Video trailer

The Hoolet was made with the Arches (RIP) and first performed at Behaviour Festival 2015. From April to June 2016, the show was performed across Scotland in our rural tour funded by Creative Scotland and North East Arts Touring. The show then went to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016.

Here’s what The Hoolet is all about …

“Language is personal. Nothing gets closer to our hearts. And yet, by its own nature, it’s always social. Who owns it? Who appoints it? Who governs it? And why?

In this one-woman show about the Scots language, Ishbel McFarlane presents collected fragments – stories, interviews, memories, characters and attitudes – to challenge and disrupt our expectations and prejudices about language. By interrogating the history of Scots, and the ways in which it is taught and subdued, the audience is invited to question the way forward for minority languages.”

Winner of The Arches Platform 18: New Directions Award 2014.

‘A witty, intelligent, and interesting discussion on the subject of language’ ★★★★★ – Darrow

‘A passionate call to arms for the study and preservation of minority languages.’ ★★★★ – The Times

‘McFarlane is engaging as herself and as the linguists, philosophers and writers she embodies.’ ★★★★ – The Skinny

‘An engaging, heart-warming piece which is a lovingly made look at language as a living, pulsating, external thing as natural as breathing.’ ★★★★ – The List

‘Heartwarming and cerebral, ‘Hoolet’ is a triumph of both style and content.’ – Kirkintilloch Herald

‘A gorgeous, thinky, clever hour’ – Kirstin Innes (Author of Fishnet)

‘O Is For Hoolet’ will be touring to various festivals in 2017. Keep an eye on this page for more information.

Margaret McLarty [Saturday (with Fischy) / Sunday]

Margaret is a Scottish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her debut album “Brigid’s Birds” will be released in June 2017, after a successful Kickstarter project, and draws on life and people loved in Glasgow, Iona and Zambia.

With the band Hinba, she recorded songs for the Wild Goose Resource Group’s album ‘Enemy of Apathy‘. During the day she works for the charity Fischy Music.

Margaret will be playing songs from her debut album “Brigid’s Birds”, which has been described as ‘exquisite’, ‘tender’, ‘evocative’ and ‘a tiny feathery masterpiece’.

Pádraig Ó Tuama [Saturday/ Sunday]

Pádraig is a poet and theologian based in Belfast. Since 2014 he has been the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation witness.

Pádraig’s work encompasses reconciliation work dealing with the legacy of ‘The Troubles’ in Belfast and beyond. In this capacity he facilitates encounters between people of differing political and national identities for the purpose of shared conversation, mutual learning and deeper understanding.

His theological work has focused on Gospel scholarship, especially on the inter personal encounters of the gospel traditions, and from those analyses drawing practical suggestions for public dialogue, particularly where those public dialogues are contentious.

His poetry (‘Readings From The Book Of Exile, 2012 and ‘Sorry For Your Troubles‘, 2013) is published through Canterbury Press and ‘In the Shelter was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2015. ‘Daily Prayer will be released by Canterbury Press in the summer of 2017.

Praise for Pádraig’s poetry:

“Deeply moving and thought-provoking poetry which invites readers to let the sacred reach into them touching their vulnerability and opening their hearts.” — Dr. Cecelia Clegg, Theologian, New College, Edinburgh. Co-author of ‘Moving Beyond Sectarianism

“Pádraig’s latest work continues to challenge, provoke and advocate that a better world is not just possible but essential. Honesty, empathy, compassion are the hallmarks of this work from a poet who accepts that he too has a responsibility to help make the world a fairer and better place”. — Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister, Northern Ireland Assembly. From the Reflection on ‘Shaking Hands’, in ‘Sorry For Your Troubles

“Pádraig Ó Tuama is an extraordinary person, whose influence extends quietly and gracefully across the world. His poetry bears these same qualities and brings him close. It is a gift to us all.” — Krista Tippett. Creator and host of ‘On Being’

Links about Pádraig & Corrymeela

‘Storywork’: a Summer School of Narrative Practice, 20-24th August 2017

Interview with ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett

“Spirituality of Conflict” – reflections on conflict through the Sunday Gospel readings

Corrymeela: a short film about the Community’s work

Alison Phipps & Robert Swinfen [Saturday]

Alison is UNESCO Professor for Refugee Integration through languages and the arts and co-convener of Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network at the University of Glasgow. More info
Robert is Finance and Services Manager of SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.
Both are members of the Iona Community.

Eurig Scandrett [Sunday]

Eurig is a Lecturer in Sociology at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University. For 8 years he was head of community action at Friends of the Earth Scotland and he has developed a number of pedagogical and research projects in environmental justice campaigns.

He co-authored Environmental Nakba: Environmental injustice and violations of the Israeli occupation of Palestine for Friends of the Earth International. He is a member of the Iona Community.

More info

Lina Toth [Saturday]

Lina Toth - photo 001

Lina Toth is Assistant Principal and Lecturer in Practical Theology at the Scottish Baptist College in Paisley. Born in Lithuania, she joined the College in June 2014, having relocated from the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague where she had served as a course leader, lecturer and later as pro-Rector and Academic Dean. Lina has BA degrees in Theology and English from the Lithuania Christian College in addition to an MTh in Applied Theology and PhD from IBTS/University of Wales. Rev Dr Lina Toth (formerly Andronoviene) is Assistant Principal and Lecturer in Practical Theology at the Scottish Baptist College. A musician and artist as well as a theologian, she speaks at conferences on various aspects of ethics, spirituality, and theology of culture.

Her latest book explores the churches’ attitudes to human flourishing and is called Transforming the Struggles of Tamars: Single Women and Baptistic Communities

Wild Goose Resource Group [Saturday & Sunday]

The Wild Goose Resource Group is the semi-autonomous project of the Iona Community, who work in the areas of song, liturgy, Christian education and training of both lay folk and clergy. The WGRG consists of  John L. Bell, Jo Love and Graham Maule, more than ably supported by Gail Ullrich (administrator) and Kirsty Campbell (sales administrator). They are a very dodgy bunch, involved in too many nefarious things to describe here. However, if you want to find out more about them, follow this link.

Download the latest ColumbaFest flyer here. Any help with publicity, much appreciated.


See the weeWONDERBOX 2016-17 listings page for more information about other events in the programme.

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Weewonderbox logo, 150dpi, 050416 - REDweeWONDERBOX is a programme of events organised by the Iona Community’s Programme team and the Wild Goose Resource Group.
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