Mary Duff, Committee Chair of Habost-based Taigh Dhonnchaidh, has revealed that some recent works have been completed but they hope to press on with more significant changes in the future.
She said: “We have just completed work on a new car park to the side of the building, on land which the neighbour kindly donated to us and the work was carried out with funding received from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar through the Crown Estate Revenue Fund.
“We are proposing to build an extension at the back of the house and also redevelop the existing space. The extension would allow us to have our own staging and performance area, which will enable us to hold all our events and functions in house.
“This will preserve the uniqueness and identity of Taigh Dhonnchaidh. Within the plan there is provision for a sensory and music therapy room with a garden.”
Over the past few years Taigh Dhonnchaidh has established a regular monthly cinema at their building but the proposed new extension would allow them to provide a much-improved experience at the films, with more room and retractable, tiered seating.
Ms Duff continued: “We are currently very restricted with what we can offer due to the size of our rooms and we have to hold our concerts either elsewhere in Ness or outwith the local area in a larger venue. We have to limit our Fèis numbers every year because the building will not accommodate large numbers. In recent years the numbers attending classes have increased considerably, especially the Ness Highland Dancing School, where ceiling height is also becoming an issue.”
Taigh Dhonnchaidh, Duncan’s House, was opened at 44 Habost, Ness, more than 22-years ago as a Gaelic arts and music centre and a tribute to its former owner, the late Duncan’ Major’ Morison MBE.
Well known and respected throughout the isles, Mr Morison was a music teacher who had a strong influence on a number of students including the famous singer Calum Kennedy.
An expanded Taigh Dhonnchaidh Ms Duff insists will make an important contribution to the community in the North of Lewis while helping strengthen the Gaelic culture, language and traditional music scene. The proposed development will allow Taigh Dhonnchaidh to provide classes and events for increased numbers - meeting the demand that already exists and expanding on that - and, importantly, making provision for those with additional support needs who are either not provided for at all on the island or only by travelling a significant distance.
Johanna Furey, Committee member, said: “My children have all benefited from classes at Taigh Dhonnchaidh and the benefits go far beyond learning a musical instrument. I have seen them grow in confidence and develop their social skills through the annual Fèis and performances. It would be great to see the facility developed to allow more to benefit – young and old alike.”
Ms Duff agrees and points to works already being done to be more inclusive. “We have been fortunate to be able to provide adult classes recently and have had a good uptake,” she added.
“There should be no barriers to learning a new skill, whether that be music, dance or anything else. We would like to be able to see that continue but without a larger facility we are restricted in what we can provide.”
The works are presently on hold pending funding being secured. Further, detailed design, planning permission and building warrant will also be needed before any significant works can be carried out on site.
To donate to Taigh Dhonnchaidh’s fundraising appeal or for more information visit their website www.taighdhonnchaidh.com.