Festival recalls links with John Lennon

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The Independent Culture

The Scottish Highland village of Durness – the scene of John Lennon's childhood summer holidays in the 1950s – stages a festival in his name this weekend.

Durness, in Sutherland, is as modest as crofters' villages come. Its population is precisely 364. But the village has been building on its improbable Beatles heritage for some time.

A Lennon shrine has been shaped from three smooth slabs of local granite and a mocked-up blue plaque above Sango Bay declares that "John Lennon 1940-80, musician and songwriter lived here." A mild exaggeration – he spent five summer holidays tat the family-owned croft betwen the ages of nine and 14.

Yesterday marked the start of the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival, a three-day event. Yoko Ono has given her blessing. Sir

Peter Maxwell Davies, who lives on Orkney, will be among the performers – although unearthing a piano for the Master of the Queen's Music proved a challenge. An urgent appeal for a grand drew a blank, but a rickety, old upright was eventually found and a tuner brought more than 100 miles to prepare it. Sir Peter, who rarely plays in public, said: "The festival is my chance to pay a personal tribute to John Lennon, whom I regard as one of this century's great composers."

Also present this weekend will be the wonderful violinists Blazin Fiddles, poets John Cooper Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy, and two-piece band Nizlopi.

There will be a dance floor in the local Smoo Cave, which boasts the largest limestone cave opening in Britain, though a planned full-blown party in there was cancelled for fear it could cause a landslide.

Sir Paul McCartney's photographer brother, Mike is displaying his photos from the Live8 concert in London two years ago.

Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, who will speak at the festival, said: "Durness meant so much to him and it is wonderful that his links with a part of the world he loved are being highlighted."

With 1,100 tickets and scant accommodation – just 45 beds in a hostel, self-catering cottages and B&Bs – a tent under the stars will be the only option for most.

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