As a rule of thumb when you’re visiting a new place, if you see a crowd of locals flocking to an event, attraction or restaurant, it’s worth joining the queue behind them.
In this case, over the weekend of June 21-23 which coincides with the summer solstice, a horde of Thursonians will descend upon Sir George’s Park for a third consecutive year of Midsummer Madness – a summery celebration of all things Thurso.
Being perched on a north-facing coastline at around 59° N really tunes a community into the environmental conditions it’s exposed to. We obsess about the wind, the winter dark, and the summer daylight to the point of celebrating the latter.
Marking the longest day – all 18.5 daylight hours of it – has long taken folk out into the elements for a bonfire or barbecue, so how fitting that Thurso Town Improvements Association has made a community occasion of it in the form of a weekend long festival called Midsummer Madness?
The celebration has many of the same traits as a summer should anywhere: a barbecue, a cold beverage, and live music – only summer is such a fleeting concept around here that the community revel in it with serious verve – get it while you can.
We caught up with one of the driving forces behind some Midsummer Madness, Thurso Town Improvements’ Marion O’Brien to get the low down about this year’s madness.
The name tells a bit of the story, but what is Midsummer Madness and how did the concept come about?
Thurso Town Improvements Association traditionally hosted the Thurso Gala. We loved the gala and how it was staple part of Thurso’s social calendar, but things change and evolve as time goes on. We restructured what was traditionally a week long celebration with a range of different events and, as discussions progressed, the committee wanted to keep the community celebration feel of the event and the recognition of our young people. After many meetings and a couple glasses of wine – Midsummer Madness was born there in the chairman’s kitchen.
The aim remains the same – a celebration of all things Thurso. A good old community ‘knees-up’ with something for everyone. The Young Ambassadors Awards recognise the outstanding youth of our community, namely people under 18 who go over and above for Thurso.
The weekend is run by a committee of volunteers who make up a very small part of the overall success. Without the additional operational volunteers, the volunteer performers and, of course, those who attend, we wouldn’t have Midsummer Madness.
Onto year three of the Madness, year’s 1 & 2 seem to have been a hit!?
We’ve learned along the way. Things that seem a good idea on paper don’t often run to plan on the day, but we’ve been lucky to avoid disaster so far…touch wood!
I’ll never forget the Friday evening of year one when, in true Caithness fashion, we had crisis talks in the marquee about ‘just how strong does the wind have to be before we have to cancel?’ as 80mph wind whipped the tent we were stood in. We powered through, and the good folk of Thurso still arrived in their crowds – almost like we’re used to adverse weather!
Over the two years, we’ve seen some seriously talented performers. As much as the committee plan the structure and logistics of the event, what makes it so popular is the community spirit it showcases, and the family fun people love to partake in. We’ve also been incredibly lucky with community minded businesses who have not only sponsored us financially but have been on the end of a phone offering transport, equipment and advice when we’ve been on the brink of disaster! Special thanks to Gow’s of Lybster. Y-Not Bar & Grill, LED Scotland, and Simpson Oils for their loyal support since 2017.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s programme?
I’m most looking forward to the Saturday entertainment. We’ve got a full day and evening of live music lined up with all local acts giving up their time to perform. There’s nothing quite like a day spent appreciating passionate local entertainers – the cold Rock Rose Gin & Tonic just happens to be the icing on the cake!
If you could ask one thing/give one piece of advice to people attending MSM this year…
Prepare for all weathers! Pack sun cream and waterproofs, you just never know!
Describe Thurso in Three Words
Surprising, Stunning, Special
What’s an absolute ‘must see’ for visitors to the area?
Really see the town. The old buildings, the Caithness slate, the boundless skies. Take a step back, slow down and appreciate the little things. You’re on holiday, what’s the rush?!
Check out Thurso library too, we’re lucky to have a fantastic, modern library with a jam-packed programme of events for the whole family. It’s an ideal, cost effective place to spend some time on a rainy day with the little ones and is home to the Thurso Art gallery which showcases fantastic free-to-visit exhibitions. The building itself dates back to 1862 and is a beautiful sight even if you don’t venture inside!
Cumulative list of ‘must sees’ in the area:
Friday 21st June @ 7pm – 11.45pm
Saturday 22nd June @ 12pm – 11.45pm
Sunday 23rd June @ 12pm – 8pm
For a complete programme and the most up-to-date madness, check out Thurso Town Improvement Association’s Facebook page.
Some handy information to give you a real feel for Thurso during your stay - enjoy!