Author Archives: Charlotte Hathaway

Mike Vass nominated for the SAY Award

Category : Blog News

SAY-awardWe’re over the moon that our first release, Mike Vass’s beautiful album ‘In the Wake of Neil Gunn’ has made the longlist for the SAY Award. He’s up there along with fellow trad representatives Treacherous Orchestra as well as heavyweights like Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Paolo Nutini and The Phantom Band.

“The Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award is a prestigious and exciting arts prize developed by the Scottish Music Industry Association to celebrate, promote and reward the most outstanding albums released by Scottish artists between (for this year only) January 2014 and March 2015. Inaugurated in partnership with Creative Scotland, The SAY Award promotes a longlist of twenty albums which, in turn, is reduced to a shortlist of ten in advance of the award ceremony when the winner is announced.

With a first prize of £20,000, nine runners-up prizes of £1,000 and a Graduate Design Commission valued at £2,500, The SAY Award is a hugely ambitious arts prize that reflects the cultural importance of music in Scotland, celebrates its links with art and design and rewards the extraordinary wealth of artistic talent we seem to effortlessly produce on an annual basis.

The SAY Award this year, has been an SMIA production in partnership with Creative Scotland and PPL. Our media partners are The List and The Skinny.” – SAY Award website

Over the next few weeks all of the albums will be streamed live (Mike’s on 11th May) and listeners will be able to nominate their favourite. Find out more about the process here. We love the SAY Award because it brings to a fore a great variety of new music we might not normally pick up. This year’s list is fabulous and we can’t wait to delight our ears with all these albums over the next little while.

Take a look at Mike’s nomination page here and find out more about the In the Wake of Neil Gunn journey here.


Crossing Points Encore

Category : Blog News

Our exciting Scots/Gaelic bilingual collaboration between Fiona Hunter and Kathleen MacInnes returns to the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the 28th March as part of Trad Talk’s ‘Crossing Points’ day. The concert will feature really interesting approaches to fusing traditional Scots and Gaelic song, as well as accompaniment from Mike Vass.

“It was those two voices working in tandem … that served notice that they already have something special going on… a quality of vocal sound that made it exciting just to be in the same room.” **** Rob Adams, The Herald.

“inspired collaboration” **** Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman.

You can get tickets here. In the meantime, have a listen to a preview:

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Mike Vass at the Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Category : Blog News

We are very excited to announce that we will be bringing ‘Mike Vass – In the Wake of Neil Gunn’ to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. Watch this space for more information!

VIDEO series: Coming Home commission by Mike Vass

Category : Blog Videos

Mike Vass was commissioned to write a new suite of music as part of a cross-arts project called ‘Coming Home’ which resulted in a pop-up exhibition at St. Margaret’s House, Edinburgh, this January. The music was written to be played by Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin’s Big Band – a group of about 20 musicians aged 12-18.  You can find out more about the project here.

The concerto was in three movements: ‘Leaving Home’, ‘Away Being’ and ‘Coming Home’.


The whole series in one film, including storytelling by Allison Galbraith:

PRESS RELEASE: New commission from Mike Vass

Category : Blog Press releases



10403076_352524491561619_4542633375739687403_nCollaborative artist Jan Bee Brown has commissioned Scottish fiddler and composer Mike Vass to write a suite of new music to accompany a pop-up exhibition, ‘Away Being’. It is part of a new cross-arts project called ‘Coming Home’, which was inspired by a series of photographs by Ian Paterson and John Maher, ‘Leaving Home’.

‘Leaving Home – A’ Fàgail na Dachaigh’ is a collection of photographs of abandoned croft houses by Ian Paterson and John Maher that was shown at An Lanntair in Stornoway in 2013. Jan Bee was inspired by the photographs and their stories, which told of the people who had abandoned these crofts. She envisioned a projected sequence of images accompanied by haunting music performed by groups of musicians appearing gradually as the sequence developed. She wanted to work with artists from different practices as well as community projects.

‘A collaborative art project is like skimming a stone across a pond,’ she explains, ‘an unusual pebble catches your eye, you weigh it in your hand, then you give it your best throw and hold your breath as you count the bounces. The pebble’s final ‘plop’ creates ripples of its own.’

This has materialised as ‘Coming Home – A’ Tighinn Dhachaigh’, a project funded by Enterprise Music Scotland which has engaged Scots Trad Award past winner and current nominee Mike Vass to work with Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin’s Big Band (25 young musicians meeting monthly at Summerhall in Edinburgh). During this process he has composed a new suite of music inspired by the photographs and the young peoples’ responses to a series of questions: What does coming home mean to you? How does leaving home make you feel? What makes Scotland feel like home?

‘We’re delighted to be involved in this project,’ says Charlotte Hathaway who directs the Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin Big Band. ‘Our goal is to really challenge our young musicians and take part in artistically exciting ventures. Coming Home has enabled us to be part of the creation of some gorgeous music and provided some fantastic performance opportunities.’

Informal pop-up exhibition ‘Away Being’ will premier the commission, ushering in 2015 by linking music, stories and visual art. The Big Band will be accompanied by live visuals from Video Lab’s VJ Mettje Hunneman and the exhibition will also feature photographs by Ian Paterson and John Maher with artwork by Liz Skulina, Catriona Taylor, Ulrike Oeter and Isabel Ferrand.

‘I’ve travelled all over the world this year,’ says Mike, ‘from touring in the USA to sailing the West Coast of Scotland in search of musical inspiration. Leaving home and coming home have become big themes in my life. It’s been really fascinating to develop these ideas with the young musicians from Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin.’

‘Away Being’ will be in residence in Gallery 1 at St. Margaret’s House from 15th December with a launch event 2pm-4pm on 4th January.



Notes to editors


Away Being pop-up details

January 4th 2015 c/o Edinburgh Palette in Gallery 1 at St Margaret’s House, 151 London Rd, Edinburgh, EH7 6AE from 2pm – 4pm.

Parking at St Margaret’s House can be accessed via Restalrig Road South.

RSVP Jan Bee Brown:


Mike Vass

Winner of the prestigious ‘Composer of the Year’ title at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2012 and 2014 nominee for ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’, Mike Vass has been described as ‘one of the most original composers working in the field of acoustic music’ (Richard Lindsay, Ullapool Guitar Festival). He is in great demand as a performer, composer, producer and teacher; regularly touring with Scots singer Fiona Hunter whose critically acclaimed debut solo album he produced and arranged. He has performed extensively in the past few years with a number of acts including leading Scots Song band Malinky, the Paul McKenna Band, Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, in a duo with twin sister Ali, and with International super group Fiddle Rendezvous, featuring Bruce Molsky, Maryann Kennedy and Gerry O’Connor. Mike’s New Voices Commission ‘String Theory’ debuted in 2010 at Celtic Connections, and was described as ‘the most direct and honest since the idea was first conceived … precision, subtlety and attention to detail’. In 2012 Mike went on to release his critically acclaimed solo project ‘DecemberWell’. A highly original, kaleidoscopic work inspired by the Scottish Winter month of December. 2014 has seen Mike undertake his most ambitious project yet: ‘In the Wake of Neil Gunn’, a Creative Scotland Traditional Arts Commissioning project featuring a mirror voyage of writer Neil Gunn’s 1937 odyssey and a new album of original music inspired by the trip.


Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin

Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin is a volunteer-run organisation set up in 1995 by a group of parents who wanted to provide an opportunity for young people from across the city to come together and learn skills in traditional Scottish music. Over the past 19 years they have grown from strength to strength and, in addition to the hugely popular annual Easter event, EYG has a year-round programme of workshops and performance opportunities for young people aged 9 – 25. EYG has also developed several cross-cultural collaborations and runs the Big Band, which aims to bring 20+ high school-aged musicians together approximately once a month during term time to learn challenging new music, make group arrangements, and perform gigs.

Big Band performing:


Leaving Home – ‘A’ Fàgail na Dachaigh’

Is a collection of stunning photographs of abandoned croft houses by Ian Paterson and John Maher that was shown at An Lanntair in Stornoway in 2013.

Ian Paterson

John Maher


Jan Bee Brown & The Thrive Archive

The Thrive Archive was set up to research, celebrate and archive the stories of diverse community groups throughout Scotland using cross-art projects. From inner cities to remote islands Jan Bee has 25 years of experience working on collaborative projects as an artist, curator and theatre designer. This pioneering creative consultancy, driven by cake and bolstered by bunting, offers a new template for community groups and local artists to help create their own collaborative and sustainable arts projects that tell their story and help their community to thrive.

Coming Home is a pilot project for The Thrive Archive.

Jan Bee Brown

Liz Skulina

Catriona Taylor

Mettje Hunneman of Video Lab


Contact Jan Bee Brown 07799852162

Mike Vass nominated at Scots Trad Music Awards

Category : Blog News

We are delighted that Mike Vass has been nominated for ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2014.

He said ‘I feel very lucky to be part of such a vibrant and growing Scottish music scene, and to have had the privilege of playing with so many great musicians and friends over the years.’

Voting is currently open until 28th November and you can find out more about his nomination and how to vote here.

First public performance of Mike Vass’ new commission for Coming Home

Category : Blog News

Unroofed are working with Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin and Jan Bee Brown on a cross-arts project called ‘Coming Home’. Mike has been commissioned to create a sequence of new music to be performed by young musicians, which will get its first outing at the Queens Hall, Edinburgh on Saturday 15th November. Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin’s Big Band will support Kathleen MacInnes and Rachel Newton during the show. Find out more.

Coming Home- ‘a’ tighinn dhachaigh.’
10403076_352524491561619_4542633375739687403_nComing Home is a cross arts platform project exploring our rich and diverse culture and the importance of community in Scotland today. The project is inspired by the importance of a sense of belonging and by the powerful feelings associated with a sense of place. In 2013 photographs of abandoned croft houses in the Highlands and Islands, by Ian Paterson and John Maher, were shown in the exhibition ‘Leaving Home’ in Stornoway. These photographs acted as a springboard for a creative collaboration between Jan Bee Brown, lead artist at The Thrive Archive and composer Mike Vass. Mike’s composition has been funded by Enterprise Music Scotland and enables the young musicians of Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin Big Band to interact on both an emotional and creative level and work with a variety of creative artists. We hope this pilot project will result in future collaborations with diverse community groups and enable performances throughout 2015 interweaving this new composition with stories and images.

This is the world premier of work in progress, we are perhaps only half way through our collaborative journey so join us to see the result at The Thrive Archive on Facebook

Release of first official Unroofed Record

Category : Blog News

We are delighted to announce the first official release from Unroofed Records, Mike Vass – In the Wake of Neil Gunn. The journey started over a year ago now, with Mike taken ill in hospital with Lyme Disease leading to the conception of In the Wake of Neil Gunn and Unroofed Records itself.

Huge thanks to everyone who was part of it, including Creative Scotland, Enterprise Music Scotland, House of Lochar and Calmac Ferries for contributing sponsorship. Also the fabulous designer Lizzy Doe who has made a lot of gorgeous artwork to go with the project, including the sleeve itself.

We’re still setting up our shop system but the album can be bought through the project website and on iTunes.

We have already begun our next album project which is a cross-arts concept album featuring drama, music, song, and animation in collaboration with Edinburgh College of Art. Watch this space for more on The Dead Stations.

Here is a music video made by Salmon Films for the track ‘Heave and Roll’, enjoy!

VIDEO series from In the Wake of Neil Gunn

Category : Blog Videos

We’ve been producing a number of short films connected to the In the Wake of Neil Gunn project (some by Salmon Films and some put together by Mike). You can find out more about the tour here and pre-order the album here. Here they are in their full glory.

Mike’s original interview with Conxita Fornieles of Salmon Films at the School of Scottish Studies whilst he was researching music to play on the May tour. Transcriptions of the researched tunes are available for download here.


Mike improvises on the fiddle during a calm spot on the way from Arisaig to Tobermory, with a reading from Neil Gunn’s Off in a Boat by film-maker Stu Edwards.


Mike is joined by Innes Watson for a concert in Iona Abbey, where he explains Gunn’s experience in the place.


Whilst in Eigg Mike was privileged to interview the local historian Camille Dressler, whose book Eigg: The Story of and Island is considered to be one of the best resources on Eigg history.


The band rehearsing live in readiness for the tour.


Innes and Mike playing live at Iona Village Hall.


Innes and Mike playing live at Iona Abbey.


A clip from the concert in Arisaig featuring Angus Binnie, Tia Files, Sean Gray and Eilidh Shaw.


A time-lapse film setting up for the show in Lyth


Live performance during the October commission tour at Lyth Arts Centre


A time-lapse film of the Lyth take-down


Heave and Roll music video by Salmon Films

PRESS RELEASE: In the Wake of Neil Gunn Tour Dates

Category : Blog Press releases




In 1937, Neil Gunn quit his job at the Customs Office in Inverness to pursue his writing career full time. The first thing he did was to sell his house and buy a boat in the North of Skye. He spent a summer sailing Scotland’s beautiful West Coast, seeking inspiration for his writing. The following year his account of the trip, Off in a Boat, was published. In May 2014, after a time recovering in hospital from a life-threatening illness, composer and multi-instrumentalist Mike Vass set off on his own voyage inspired by Neil Gunn’s adventures as part of a new traditional arts commission sponsored by Creative Scotland. This October will see the touring of this commission and release of a new album.

Named Composer of the Year in the 2012 Scots Trad Music Awards, Vass’s music has become known for its originality and inventive approach to the Scottish tradition. A long-term member of renowned Scottish band Malinky, Mike has also performed in the Paul McKenna Band, in a duo with sister Ali, with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, Scots singer Fiona Hunter and in the feted super group Fiddle Rendezvous.

In 2013, he experienced a set-back when he was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease and was obliged to spend a prolonged period of time in hospital. His father brought him Gunn’s book Off in a Boat to read, and the idea for the project was sparked.

Says Mike: “I’d suffered a life threatening illness called Neuroborreliosis – late stage Lyme’s disease that affects the central nervous system. I found Gunn’s book utterly inspirational and immediately started planning my own version of the trip.”

A lifelong passion for sailing fuelled the development of the project which enabled Vass to find his own creative inspiration in Gunn’s coastal route. In May this year, having won the support of Enterprise Music Scotland, Creative Scotland, Calmac Ferries and Gunn’s publishers House of Lochar, Mike and a small crew set off in his father’s 35’ sailing boat from Portree on the Isle of Skye voyaging to the Eigg, Arisaig, Mull, Iona, Oban, Kentallen, Fort William and back up the Caledonian Canal to his hometown Nairn. He revisited the same coastal communities as Gunn and performed a series of concerts with guest musicians, including one at Iona Abbey.

He says: “Making music on board and watching the stunning coastline of Scotland slip by from one of the most privileged viewpoints on Earth is something I will never forget.” Though intimately inspired by Gunn’s voyage and writing Mike said: “It is inescapably the story of my own reflections. It is a journey of recovery and discovery”.

artworks-000086755784-rbz2uv-t200x200Since the voyage Mike has worked hard in the studio to compose and record a new suite of music inspired by the journey and featuring recorded samples collected on the way (from flapping flags to a diesel inboard). Says Mike: “I used some quirky sounding objects from around the house – if you listen carefully you might hear a toilet seat lid, an office stapler and a paracetamol tub being used as a shaker!” Mike will now tour the album, joined by some incredible musicians (The Cairn String Quartet, Euan Burton, Innes Watson, JenniferPort, and Hamish Napier) and featuring live sample triggers and film footage from the voyage recorded by Salmon Films.

The tour will revisit some of the areas most important to Gunn: Inverness, where he had lived; Caithness, where he was born; and Skye and Oban which were landmarks on the original voyage. Mike himself spent a week moored in Oban where he worked with the local Fèis and performed in nearby Kentallen. Mike is also looking forward to revisiting The Byre Theatre in St Andrews at the start of the tour. This is one of the first events to take place in the Byre since the reopening of the theatre under the management of the University of St Andrews, and demonstrates the University’s commitment to using the Byre to promote music of all genres as well as professional, community and student drama.

  • 7th October, 7.30pm, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews
  • 8th October, 8pm, Eden Court, Inverness
  • 9th October, 7.30pm, St. John’s Cathedral, Oban
  • 10th October, 7.30pm, SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye
  • 11th October, 8pm, Lyth Arts Centre, Wick

‘Mike Vass – In the Wake of Neil Gunn’ will be released on the 20th October 2014 on Unroofed Records, and a preview track has been released as well as downloads of sheet music transcribed by Mike during a research period at the School of Scottish Studies before the May voyage.



About Mike Vass

Named Composer of the Year in the 2012 Scots Trad Music Awards Vass’s last highly acclaimed album Decemberwell (2012) was another instrumental CD conjuring up both the chill and the warmth of the final month of the year. A long-term member of renowned Scottish band Malinky, Mike has also performed in the Paul McKenna Band, in a duo with sister Ali, with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes and in the feted super group Fiddle Rendezvous.

Also building a career as a producer (he produced Scottish songstress Fiona Hunter’s debut album last year) the Nairn-born tunesmith is known for his classy compositions – he wrote and performed the soundtrack for Gavin Robinson’s Scottish BAFTA-winning Hart’s Desire animation and his jig Cavers of Kircudbright won the inaugural Neil Gow Composition Award and has been recorded by artists from Scotland, Ireland, France and USA.


For interviews with Mike Vass, hi res images, gig review tickets and further albums for airplay or review please contact Jane Brace PR on (01243) 789554 or

For general information about the tour contact Charlotte Hathaway on 07986121370 or

Neil Gunn

Neil Miller Gunn (8 November 1891 – 15 January 1973) was a prolific novelist, critic, and dramatist who emerged as one of the leading lights of the Scottish Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. With over twenty novels to his credit, Gunn was arguably the most influential Scottish fiction writer of the first half of the 20th century (with the possible exception of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the pen name of James Leslie Mitchell). Like his contemporary, Hugh MacDiarmid, Gunn was politically committed to the ideals of both Scottish nationalism and socialism (a difficult balance to maintain for a writer of his time).

Gunn’s fiction deals primarily with the Highland communities and landscapes of his youth, though the author chose (contra MacDiarmid and his followers) to write almost exclusively in English rather than Scots or Gaelic . Despite his lack of Gaelic, he was heavily influenced in his writing style by the language.

Ticket information

Key websites – a blog about the project including diaries from the trip and videos

Media links

Soundcloud: – official preview track from the new album