FOR a small town in East Ayrshire, Darvel has done exceptionally well when it comes to attracting top-flight musicians.

Over the last 18 years, Darvel and its discriminating music fans have been entertained by everyone from world-renowned guitarists Martin Taylor and Larry Calton to Paul Carrack, Love and Money, Hue and Cry, Hamish Stuart, Glenn Tilbrook, and Justin Currie.

The remarkable list also includes Nigel Clark, Phil Cunningham, Aly Bain, Capercaillie, Skerryvore, Ruby Turner, Maggie Bell, Eddi Reader, Roddy Hart, Karine Polwart, Steve Ferrone, and Molly Duncan, the ace saxophonist in the Average White Band, who passed away recently.

This weekend, tickets have been snapped up for the St Andrew’s weekender events: Tide Lines and Project Smok tomorrow, and Skerryvore and Blazin’ Fiddles on Saturday.

Tide Lines are a four-piece band whose songs blend romantic, rural life with a record collection of classic American songwriters and a strong Gaelic influence. The Project Smok trio – pipes and whistles/ guitar and bodhrán – are a fast-emerging name in the traditional music field.

Saturday’s gig brings together Skerryvore, originally from Tiree, who are celebrating their 15th anniversary next year, and have twice won Scottish Traditional Music’s ‘Live Act of the Year’, and Blazin’ Fiddles, an award-winning six-piece band from the Highlands and islands.

Further concerts have been scheduled for Darvel next March (20 and 21), showcasing rock/pop and indie music with James Grant, Diesel Park West, The Christians and China Crisis.

Grant’s career began in the early eighties, when he formed Friends Again with Chris Thompson (The Bathers), and later was part of Love and Money, who released four influential albums and enjoyed a worldwide following.

The gifted Grant wrote these four albums, which yielded several hit singles. He contributed four songs to the debut solo album of Capercaillie vocalist Karen Matheson, including the title track, The Dreaming Sea, and he has performed or toured with artists as diverse as U2, Nanci Griffiths, Tina Turner, and BB King.

Diesel Park West, formed in Leicester in 1987, recently released a long-awaited new album, Let It Melt.

Liverpool’s The Christians – once described by a rock critic as “The Temptations in ripped jeans ......” – will next year be marking the 30th anniversary of the release of their second album, Colour, which topped the album chart and included such singles as Words and I Found Out.

China Crisis, whose great singles have included African or White, Black Man Ray and King in a Catholic Style.

Those last two songs came from their classic 1985 album, Flaunt the Imperfection, that reached ninth place it in the UK album charts.

This weekend’s concerts and next March’s are being seen as a fitting way of marking the 18th year of music in Darvel.

Festival Director, Sheila McKenna said: “It’s great to have these excellent bands performing in Darvel as part of our 18th music festival anniversary. We have music fans coming from all over the UK as well as from Europe and America”.

In common with every other gig held in the town, the venue will be the 380-capacity town hall.

Sheila, her husband Neil and their small but enthusiastic team have done much over 18 years to attract headliners and other acts – and perhaps, in the process, shown similarly-sized towns just what can be done. “We love doing it, I have to say.

“We get people coming from all across the world, we get bands that know of us,” says Neil.

Tickets for the March 2020 shows are available from Tickets Scotland, Sinforiani’s (Kilmarnock), Thistle du Florist (Darvel) and