Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Annual Report was published at the organisation’s AGM in Ballachulish this weekend (September 22-24) showing that it engaged with at least 71,000 people in 2016-17.
According to a survey conducted by the Traditional Music Forum, the work of the Fèisean now accounts for a third of all traditional music tuition for young people across Scotland.
In his foreword to the Annual Report Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Chair, Duncan MacQuarrie MBE, says: “This report demonstrates that our year-round programme, agreed with Creative Scotland, HIE and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, was successfully delivered through an impressive body of work during the period.
"We were pleased to deliver services for The Highland Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute Council as well as securing a number of contracts from other local authorities and public bodies, which were delivered through our Fèisgoil service. “
Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s priority is to ensure continued support for and development of local Fèisean and during the year a new Fèis in Tarbert, Loch Fyne was welcomed. Fèis an Iar Dheas held its inaugural event in October 2016 in Dumfries. A new committee was formed by Fèis Obar Dheathain, which held its first events following an 8-year hiatus. Fèis Rois celebrated its 30th anniversary and Fèis a’ Bhaile commemorated its 25th year. Work was instigated to re-establish Fèis Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu.
As well as supporting local Fèisean, Fèisean nan Gàidheal is involved in many initiatives such as the Gaelic medium residential event, 5 Latha, with participants experiencing a wide range of community activities, in addition to music sessions, all delivered through the medium of Gaelic from the event’s base at the Gearrannan Blackhouses in Carloway.
Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Fèisgoil service experienced substantial growth over the course of the last year with the development of Blasad Gàidhlig, which offers Gaelic lessons in schools where the language is not currently taught, helping deliver the Scottish Government’s 1+2 languages strategy. Gaelic tuition is now being delivered in several local authority areas and this increase in demand has led to employment for a growing number of tutors.
Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Chief Executive, Arthur Cormack, explains: “Everything we do is to support the local Fèisean, increase opportunities for young people or to create employment for tutors. Over the past year we have provided employment for 97 FTE posts. In addition we have offered many young people opportunities to develop their skills through Cèilidh Trails, drama work and performing at events as part of Blas and other national and international festivals.
"We strengthen Gaelic education, too, through the work carried out in schools and with pre-school groups. Earning income for contract delivery enables us to maintain our support for local Fèisean.”
“In March 2017 we formally launched our FèisTV service which will, through time, offer a range of online opportunities for an international audience to participate in the work of Fèisean nan Gàidheal. We began our streaming service with two concerts from Blas earlier this month. There will be more to come from Blas, Fèisean and Cèilidh Trail events. Oide will offer users a range of online traditional music and Gaelic song tuition which will be delivered in both Gaelic and English.”
Duncan MacQuarrie added: “2017-18 may present challenges, but there will also be opportunities. In my final year as Chair I would like to take the opportunity, on behalf of the Fèisean nan Gàidheal Board, to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to our staff and all the Fèis volunteers who continue to work so diligently and with great dedication. I wish them, and our member Fèisean, every success in the years to come.”
Fèis organisers are in Ballachulish this weekend for Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s AGM and Annual Conference. Guest speaker will be musician and broadcaster, Mary Ann Kennedy, and there will be music from Fèis Lochabair which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.