IF there is a musical Face of Bella, that face might just belong to Robin Abbot.
Since the first Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival a decade ago, Abbot calculates he made his 30th appearance at the festival last year, chalking up appearances with such local outfits as Mystic Shoes and The Lush Rollers — both of whom played the first ever Belladrum Festival back in 2004 — Ashley and The Cosmonauts and Ross-shire songwriter Davy Cowan’s band, The Stormchasers.
Not all these have been in front of the festival paying audience.
The Mystic Shoes played at the festival’s backstage party on both Friday and Saturday nights for about eight years, and he returns to the festival with the band this weekend.
Looking back to that one day event in 2004, Abbot acknowledges there was little indication of what the festival would become.
"I remember it was really sunny, roasting hot," Abbot recalled.
"We hadn’t had anything like that up here for ages, but honestly, I don’t think anyone would anticipate growing to what it is. And it’s been great seeing it growing throughout the years.
"It’s now part of the calendar."
In fact, it is such a fixture of the Highland calendar with so many people, that actually enjoying the music can become quite tricky.
"The thing about Belladrum is that you get your wee itinerary and go there with the intent of seeing this band or that band and you end up missing half of it because you run into people or start chatting. Sometimes you can only see five bands in the whole festival.
"But I always love the headline slot on Saturday night. It doesn’t really matter who’s down there. You look up at the Italian Garden all lit up and it’s just a great experience.
"The other thing about Belladrum is that the acts are all of a good standard and even if you haven’t heard of them, you can just wander into a tent and know it will be good."
Over the last decade, Belladrum has also provided a major boost to local musicians like Abbot.
"It’s given bands a chance to perform on bigger stages and be part of the organisation and see it from the other side," he said.
"It’s great to stand on stage and see all these people watching you. It’s also been great to see local acts alongside more established acts and sometimes it’s the local act that blows them away.
"A lot of my memories of playing there are quite hazy, but one of my favourite times was with The Lush Rollers. The band had been through quite a lot and it was just nice to get together after so long a time. That was pretty special for me.
"Another time I remember was playing backstage with Mystic Shoes. Alabama 3 were playing there and they all got up and started jamming along — that was pretty cool. The good thing about playing backstage is that the musicians are done for the day and just want to party, so you have Magic Numbers and James and all these people letting their hair down. It’s great to be a part of."
Abbot will be back on duty with Mystic Shoes with at pre-festival warm-up on Thursday evening and the after show party after the headliners finish on Saturday evening, but he will also be joining local band Dorec-a-Belle at the Grassroots Stage at 12.30pm on Saturday.
"Just the two this year, which I’m perfectly happy about," he said.
"There have been times when I’ve done three or four and all you do is pack up, go along to the next gig and set up and do that and you never have any time to yourself to do anything."
• Robin Abbot appears with Mystic Shoes at Belladrum on Thursday and Saturday and as a guest of Dorec-a-Belle at the Grassroots Stage on Saturday.