In 2004 the Director of Metagama Productions, Liza Mulholland, and her husband, Bruce MacGregor, started their new business at his parents’ Bogbain Farm near Inverness. Developed initially as a family visitor centre with emphasis on outdoor activities and agricultural heritage, it quickly expanded and in 2006 they built a new wing onto the old byre, to accommodate a cafe, gift shop and arts & crafts studio.
With a new farm shop in the byre and outdoor facilities including quad biking, paintballing, archery and play barn, it wasn’t long before musicians Bruce and Liza added music and arts to the mix. With regular gigs, concerts, Sunday afternoon folk sessions, art and photography exhibitions, Bogbain was rapidly developing into an artistic and cultural hub.
Come on Bruce it’s no’ that heavy!
When accordion enthusiast and collector, Caroline Hunt, approached them with the offer of some of her three hundred-plus collection of instruments for display, accordionist Liza and fiddler Bruce jumped at the chance. Knowing Caroline’s collection to be second only to Italy’s Castel Fidardo, they gratefully took custody of sixty five diverse and beautiful vintage instruments. The unique nature of this little museum drew visitors from around the world as well as great interest from the press and media.
Always keen to support and promote the wonderful array of quality food and drink on their doorstep, Bruce and Liza hosted numerous food and drinks events and festivals, celebrating local artisan producers, organic growers, the Slow Food movement, as well as top quality products from local wineries and the best of craft beers from the Black Isle Brewery.
Are you sure that was meant to happen?
Gaining a number of awards over the years for food and tourism, Bruce and Liza, along with their loyal and dedicated staff, worked hard to make their business the best unusual venue they possibly could. With Bogbain’s rustic charm and the attraction of a homegrown family business drawing many to hire the venue for birthdays, anniversary parties, and special celebrations of all kinds, along with the regular staples of Christmas functions, Hogmanay ceilidhs, Burns Suppers, Ladies’ Lunches and numerous special kiddies’ events, Bogbain was quickly becoming a very busy place! They were even being asked to do weddings!
With the Farm well-established as a music venue, Bruce and Liza decided the next natural step was to hold a full-blown festival, and so set about, with Bruce’s father Brian, to clear the back barn he was then using as a garage, renovating it as the main concert room. A tremendous natural space, its pointed stone walls and original rafters lent the barn an authentic, down-home appeal. Working closely with Bruce’s musical colleague, Brian O h-Eadhra, and a host of other enthusiastic friends and volunteers, Bogbain Farm was transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing festival venue, complete with Green Room, late night club and even a resident artist in the form of the super-talented Paul Taggart, doing on-the-spot paintings of all the musicians. Northern Roots Festival was born!
Roddy hard at work!
It was Liza and Bruce’s mission at Bogbain to promote and celebrate roots music from both home and further afield, and so for their first Northern Roots Festival, as well as the best of Highland bands, they brought in top class acts such as The Groanbox Boys from the USA, who had played a concert at Bogbain the year before and gone down a storm, Martin Stephenson of The Daintees and the acclaimed singer-songwriter Dean Owens of The Felsons.
Other debut Northern Roots events included an acoustic stage, open mic, after-hours sessions, the best in local food and drink, and of course craic aplenty. With their first Northern Roots Festival a sell-out success, Bruce, Liza and Brian O h-Eadhra immediately set about planning the next one, with the unanimous, number one priority being to move the festival from the still-baltic month of April to the ever-so-slightly balmier days of June. Old farm buildings look and sound great, as well as oozing character, but have got to be among the most difficult places to heat!
What started out as a side-project for Bruce and Liza quickly grew an incredible number of arms and legs! They have always maintained however that helping renovate his parents’ Bogbain Farm-steadings, some from a semi-derelict state, and rejuvenating once again with music, fun and life a place that had many decades before been a thriving farm and droving tryst, is something that they are hugely proud of and has brought them both lasting satisfaction.