Ceòlas visits Irish and Spanish festivals

26th July 2018

Representatives of Ceòlas, the Uist-based arts and heritage organization, have had an exceptionally busy July, travelling to the Willie Clancy Summer School in Milltown Galway, Co Clare, and the HIGA gathering in Gasteiz, Spain, in addition to the regular events programme.

As the largest traditional music summer school in Ireland, attended by thousands of students every year, the Willie Clancy Summer School provided both for an interesting comparison to the much smaller and more community-oriented Ceòlas summer school, and a large potential market for international students. Iain MacDonald, Dòmhnall Iain MacDonald, Màiri MacInnes and Liam Crouse attended the school, participating in sean-nós dancing and Irish language classes and attending concerts, joining a further contingent of Uist and Scottish tradition musicians. Dòmhnall Iain and Liam even showcased the steps learned through the week at the Sean-nós Concert on Thursday evening. The international trade mission received support from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Creative Scotland.

Liam Crouse, Ceòlas’ communication’s officer, also attended HIGA 2018, the second global summit of young speakers of minoritized language, taking place in the Basque Country. Also representing the Scottish Gaelic language was Joe Sanders, from the University of Glasgow. They joined over 70 other participants from over 30 minoritized languages including Basque, Saami, Silesian, K’iche and others from five continents. Liam, who brought his pipes, engaged in a rich cultural exchange amongst the other young speakers, teaching others cèilidh dances from Scotland and learning about Basque, Breton and Galician pipes.

At both events, a great amount of knowledge transfer and experiential learning took place. The Ceòlas group felt that their Uist-based summer school, which was partially modeled after the Willie Clancy School, compared well to the larger Irish festival. Despite following Ceòlas’ busiest summer school ever, future growth in student numbers will hopefully be further driven by international participants.

The youth summit, organized by the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council and the University of the Basque Country, sought to inspire and advise new and native speakers of minoritised languages from around the world. The situational similarities between many languages were highlighted, and although language groups may differ in their prioritized areas of development, the structural evolution in terms of policy and legislation is generally shared. The sharing of experiences was particularly powerful, with Scottish Gaelic comparing remarkably well to other language situations, such as those non-European languages that still suffer racism and violence against their speaker populations. Overall, the summit demonstrated that there is a younger generation who is dedicated to their respective minoritised languages that is challenging the broad homogenising tendencies of globalisation.