Voice of Gaelic community needs to be heard

A major conference will be held in Lewis next month in a bid to set the scene for what is hoped will spark a revitalisation of Gaelic in its traditional island heartlands.

By Murray MacLeod
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 9:45 am
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2022, 1:40 pm
Seeking a new direction... The conference wants to hear from the Gaelic community in the islands.
Seeking a new direction... The conference wants to hear from the Gaelic community in the islands.

The event is being organised by consultants Soillse, who produced the report, ‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community’.

Published in 2020 it said that unless “a root and branch” reform of Gaelic policy was undertaken it would disappear in the islands as a living language within the space of a decade.

Other leading academics and those involved in shaping Gaelic policy over the last 20 years disagreed with its central findings, pointing out that the language was a national resource that had made significant progress. Others suggested it served to alienate new speakers in other parts of Scotland.

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Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Gaelic Research Professor and Director of Soillse, said: “The conference offers an ideal opportunity for open discussion on important issues. It is vital to have the voice of the community involved in Gaelic affairs”.

Iain Caimbeul, a research fellow at the Language Sciences Institute of UHI said that “an important objective for the conference is to hear the voice of the community (Guth na Coimhearsnachd) on how to support the language in the islands, particularly amongst a new generation of speakers”.

He added: “We will debate the need for a reset of current support structures for Gaelic. We will also discuss how new forms of community governance and participation can improve the relationship between development bodies and the community.

"This conference is an ideal platform for Gaelic communities from across the islands to reset the development agenda and help to place Gaelic on a sustainable footing. A positive outcome would be the recognition of the critical importance of cooperation across all relevant partners in addressing underlying socio-economic and sociolinguistic problems facing Gaelic as a family and community language in the Western Isles.”

The conference will be held in the Caladh Inn in Stornoway from the 29th to 31st August. It will be free for island residents.