Music

A utopian vision for sustainable festivals

Festivals don't have to cost the Earth. Pictish Trail, aka Johnny Lynch, explains

Howling Fling - sustainable festival

Howlin' Fling. Image: Jassy Earl

More and more festival organisers are looking for ways to lessen their impact on their surroundings, whether through green schemes or community projects. Howlin’ Fling, an intimate annual festival on Scotland’s Isle of Eigg, functions as a forward-thinking model of a sustainable festival that makes a genuine difference to its local community and the planet. 

The festival is organised by psychedelic pop artist Pictish Trail aka Johnny Lynch, founder of record label Lost Map and one of around 100 Eigg residents – all of whom are integral to the festival’s spirit. “They are usually the ones having the most fun,” laughs Lynch, who moved to Eigg a decade ago. “Some of them help out with getting the marquee erected, and the bar is stocked with beer from the local brewery.” The festival is a two-day event (on August 4/5), but it allows him to do his bit for the island year-round. “I’ve been able to use profits to support the local kids’ ceilidh summer camp, and purchase a new PA for the community hall.” 

Like the island at large, the whole festival is powered by Eigg’s self-contained renewable energy system, which is entirely economically and environmentally sustainable. Guests are encouraged to camp amid the island’s breathtaking landscape, and Lynch builds up the green-friendly infrastructure when he can. “The thing I’m genuinely most excited about this year is the addition of a brand new compost toilet on our campsite,” Lynch deadpans.  

Of course, a sustainable festival paradise would be nothing without music and Howlin’ Fling consistently delivers on that front too, with artists from Lost Map playing alongside indie heroes like Gruff Rhys, Steve Mason and Beth Orton. This year’s line-up is a guarded secret, but Lynch cites a solo set from Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle as an all-time favourite from years past. “I remember walking out of the ceilidh hall after he’d played that show with tears of joy in my eyes, and seeing all my pals crying, too. Moments like that make all the months of stress, sorting out the logistics of the event, worthwhile.”

howlinfling.com

Read our full 2023 festivals guide here.

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