Celebrating 25 years of the Feis movement

SINCE the first Feis was established on the Isle of Barra in 1981, there are now 40 individual Feisean throughout Scotland - and what a wealth of talent these organisations are producing.

The development of the Feis movement is highlighted in a new book by Feisean nan Gaidheal, titled: 'Feis: the first 25 years of the Feis movement' which visits each Feis through the decades, focusing on how they were established, their current situation and the positive effects their Feis has had on the surrounding community.

The book, launched at the recent Traditional Music Awards in Fort William, tells the story of the people who have been involved in the Feisean, alongside views and opinions from those who have an interest in the movement.

So many people have been involved in the Feisean over the years that it is little wonder the book contains over 200 pages, with many colour and black and white photos.

In his foreword, former Minister for Education, Young People and Gaelic, Peter Peacock says that the Feis movement is now an established and valued part of Scottish cultural life - and all should be proud of its success.

"It has made an immense contribution to the lives of many young people and has strengthened both traditional music and the Gaelic language throughout Scotland," says Mr Peacock.

He goes on: "The Gaelic arts and culture now have a high profile in Scotland and are a very important feature of our cultural life. We must never forget that it is the Gaelic language which is at the heart of this. It is the key to the survival of this culture and as such it must be protected."

The Minister makes a very valid point, because as young people attend the Feisean, they are not only learning or progressing a talent, but are surrounded by Gaelic, with the tutors expecting them to speak the language. And the more they do this, the more confident they become in the language.

As we have seen in the past, many who were taught at Feisean throughout Scotland are now tutors themselves! It is essential that these young people use that experience and are given the opportunity to teach others and so progress the movement.

The book also concentrates on both community and national Feis-connected developments, with contributions not only from Peter Peacock, MSP and former Scottish Minister for Education, Young People and Gaelic, but Calum MacDonald from the well-known band Runrig and Father Colin Maclnnes, who was instrumental in establishing the very first Feis on the Isle of Barra.

This full-colour publication is also packed with great photographs taken at Feisean events over the years, with contributions from professional photographers including Cailean Maclean, Sam Maynard and Anthony MacMillan. There is also a fine selection of photographs from those who were attending a Feis at the time. So, if you were involved at Feisean over the past 25 years, you may be featured in this book!

The entire project took three years to complete, during which time the team travelled the length and breadth of Scotland interviewing the different individuals who have been involved in the Feisean over the years, such as committee members, tutors or former and current Feis participants.

Kate Martin, lecturer in Community Education at the University of Dundee, was the editor of the publication.

She had previously been involved in establishing a number of Feisean in the Highlands during the mid-eighties and nineties.

Arthur Cormack, Director of Feisean nan Gaidheal said: "The number of Feisean has dramatically increased from Feis Bharraigh in 1981 to 42 individual Feisean this year. This book celebrates the hard work of everyone who has been involved in the success of the movement over the past 25 years."

The publication received financial assistance from the Scottish Arts Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Bord na Gaidhlig, Seirbhis nam Meadhanan Gaidhlig, The Highland Council, Proiseact nan Ealan and Comunn na Gaidhlig.

Congratulations to all those involved in this production; even more praise to the dedicated amount of people who have strived to make a success of Feisean over the past 25 years.

'Feis: the first 25 years of the Feis movement', published by Feisean nan Gaidheal, Meall House, Portree, Isle of Skye.