Ceolas expands its horizons

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This year has seen South Uist culture organisation Ceòlas expand its core activity of events, including the addition of two festivals: Toradh/Harvest in August and a forthcoming Gaelic literary festival, ‘Às an Tobar’, during Book Week Scotland 2017 in December.

The community charity, working together with LCC/UHI, has also seen rapid progress in the realisation of the Cnoc Soilleir centre, with the latest building plans for this exciting joint venture to be displayed at Ceolas’ AGM in early December.

Since the start of the year, four new members of staff have been welcomed to Ceòlas’ team, based throughout Uist. Liam Crouse, the Gaelic Media and Communications officer, began in April in a 3-year post partly financed by the Scottish Government, the European Community LEADER Innse Gall 2014-2020 programme, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and HIE.

Sorcha Monk, of Benbecula, returned home from Glasgow to start as the Dance Development Officer. She has been working with schools and older members of the community in a post funded by NHS Eileanan Siar and the Robertson Trust.

Two new positions have been added to the Cnoc Soilleir development team, funded by the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and HIE. Following Dr Rebecca Rennell’s maternity leave in July, Catherine Yeatman, has taken over as Project Manager for Cnoc Soilleir to oversee a critical phase in the development. Tony Vernon, the Technical Contracts coordinator, is due to start in December.

Catherine led a July consultation on the proposed plans for Cnoc Soilleir. Community input is central to the project, with upwards of 300 members of the community having taken part since 2014.

Initial testing has been carried out on the site, and dependent on funding decisions, works on site are planned to start in the new year.

In August, DFM John Swinney chaired a stakeholder meeting for the project during his visit to South Uist, and expressed his strong support for the project and its future benefits for the island, its culture, language and economy.

Ceòlas has also recently announced the start of Gaelic classes throughout Uist, which will contribute to a key objective in sustaining the language as a community language.

Gaelic has also proved to be a viable economic asset, with Ceòlas running several immersion courses for the nationally strategic Gaelic Immersion for Teachers (GIfT) programme.

A strong offering of community events continues to be the mainstay of Ceòlas’ activity. The youth music initiative, Buttons & Bows, has run for over 2 years, offering free tuition in button box and fiddle to the next generation. Ceòlas continues to seek further funding for this programme, as the previous support ended in May.

A new Gaelic literary festival will take place between 30 November to 2 December, during Book Week Scotland.

The festival, which will feature local authors including Marion Morrison, winner of the 2017 Gaelic New Writers Awards, and Seonag Monk, will take place in Kildonan Museum, dovetailing with Ceòlas’ AGM.

The Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig will also hold public engagements to consult with local culture and heritage groups during this week, as part of the development of a cultural strategy for Scotland.

Catrìona Black will launch her new book, Forradh: Sly Cooking, which reinvigorates Gaelic words collected by Fr Allan MacDonald over a century ago, on 1 December. The event will be followed by a screening of ‘Mgr Ailein agus na Faclan’, a programme recorded in Uist by MacTV in the springtime. It follows Catrìona as she goes out in search of those words from her book which have survived in common usage.

A new website has been created to showcase the words, along with recordings and new artwork from the book (

The festival will be held in Gaelic and has been funded by the Scottish Book Trust, Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and HIE. Full details available on the Ceòlas website and social media.