Continuing the ‘Inspirational women in music’ series, I met my next interviewee a few years ago through social media and a shared love of music. Marion was promoting March into Pitlochry festival, she is one of the founders, and we got chatting about music and the bands she had on the line up. We finally met in person at the festival in Pitlochry, which has got to be one of the prettiest towns I’ve been to. The line up both days for this year is outstanding, see the link below, I highly recommend you check it out….some of my favourite bands today I first saw there last year!
Can you introduce yourself and briefly tell us a bit about you?
Hi Caroline, my name’s Marion McDonald- I am over 50!!- and I live in Pitlochry.
I have a mobile dog grooming business which I started nearly 5 years ago and I love my job.
Tell me about starting March into Pitlochry, who’s involved and how it came about?
For years I have been going to Loopallu and I love it – its a great festival in Ullapool with a capacity of 2000 people. Ullapool is not unlike Pitlochry with the main street having some cracking bars and hotels. Every year when I left I thought….Pitlochry could do that. I must have spoken my thoughts out loud to a few people. Stephen Carruthers a local business man came to me and asked if I was serious and did I think it would work- of course I did!! He is a big music fan and together we approached Bruce Patterson from Heartland FM who was also up for the idea and then we needed somebody ‘techy and we got John Macphee on board and we decided to put a plan together.
Is working in the music industry something you always wanted to do?
Working?? Not sure I can call it work but to be honest not really. As much as I am a huge music fan I never thought for one minute I would get involved with the music scene apart from going to gigs festivals and listening to CD’s!!
Putting on a festival of that size must be a huge task, where did you even start?
Well before we knew it within a couple of weeks our plan became a reality!! We discussed an outdoor event but decided that was a huge task to take on so we opted for an indoor festival- in March before any other festivals kick off. We spoke to 3 hoteliers in Pitlochry who were all keen on the idea. They were to be our 3 “fringe venues” and Pitlochry Town Hall was to become our “Main Stage” so the next step was to start booking out bands that we had all seen before and with social media this was much easier than expected!
The festival is becoming a huge success, are you planning an even bigger MIP festival this year?
Well strangely enough no- we have scaled it back a little from the first few years, those were a real learning curve. We had 4 venues and even putting PA and back line in all 4 cost us a lot of money. We are not out to make a profit but to break even would be nice! If we were to make any profit it would go to Parkinson’s UK which was is chosen charity for now. We rely heavily on sponsorship. So this year we have 2 venues and 20 acts. Hopefully from this year it will grow!
Who are some of the bands and singers you’re planning to have this year?
To name just a few we have The Dunwells who are a great band from Leeds and we are very excited to have with us again this year. Headlining is Edinburgh band Blue Rose Code who are at the edge of contemporary alt-folk tinged with a touch of Americana, soul and pop. There will be a couple of favourite bands that people will have seen here the last few years for example The Tumbling Souls know for their upbeat original tunes influenced by cajun, classic country and bluegrass intermingled with sounds of the band’s background in Scottish traditional music. We have some new artists performing from all over Scotland such as The Wellgreen, a blend of sixties song writing, psychedelia and early power-pop from this Glasgow 4 piece who despite flying under the radar have a loyal following and 2 critically acclaimed albums… and many more bands so it’s all very exciting. Closing the festival in McKays Hotel is Frightened Rabbit silent DJ Disco battle, even as Silent Discos go this is very special as Grant Hutchison and Billy Kennedy of Frightened Rabbit battle it out to be the DJ king of Highland Perthshire. So come along, leave your inhibitions at the bar and do your thang into the small hours!
Talk us through a typical day in the life of Marion.
My day starts with walking my dog- my daughter has moved back home with me so invariably I have her little hound with me too. I always feel better for it no matter what the weather. Then it’s off to my day job! I travel up and down the A9 grooming. I cover from Inverness to Bankfoot. The reason I go as far as Inverness is I have friends and family there and have found myself getting a few days work every fortnight up north. Great excuse for a wee jaunt. I start about 9am and get home between 6 and 7pm. Then its getting the van ready for the next day grab something to eat and with any luck I might be heading to a gig at night!! If not I usually listen to music and check emails etc, I try hard not to iron!!!
Music PR isn’t a 9-5 job, how do you balance your dog grooming business and family life with it?
To be honest my main thing is March into Pitlochry and as it is a one off event it isn’t too onerous, My quiet time dog grooming is January/ February so that gives me time to finalise MIP. As part of MIP we also put on Saturday Sessions at Mckays Bar in Pitlochry so that takes a bit of organising but only on the last saturday of the month so again not too bad. As long as there are people around that are willing to help whether at home or work it certainly helps. And as I said I try not to iron!! That helps!
Best gig you’ve been to and what made it memorable?
Oh that’s a tough one! My first gig was The Tourists in Aberdeen which was amazing-and I have seen so may people in small venues for example Mumford and Sons playing to a handful of people in their early days
But I think I would have to say Beth Hart last year at 02 Academy Glasgow. Possibly because I hadn’t seen her before and I wasn’t sure what to expect but she blew me away. Musically she was fantastic and she was so open about her life – her relationship with her Mother and Father and the love she has for her husband- she got so emotional on stage you really felt for her- she seemed so vulnerable and then she’d belt out another tune!! She came into the audience and sang to them and some of the saudience got very emotional. It was a concert that I thought about for weeks afterwards, which is always a good sign I think!
Where do you want to be career wise this time next year?
I’m not a very ambitious person I don’t think! As long as I am still as busy dog grooming and doing a bit of music organising on the side I’ll be happy. It would be good to see MIP out grow the venues that it is in just now- maybe twist a farmers arm to lend us a field!! Ideally I would like March into Pitlochry 2018 sell out within a few months of tickets going on sale- now that would be something!!