Arts Winners in Argyll Awards

Item Posted: Monday 4th January, 2010

ARTS in ARGYLL AWARDS –PROFILES
EILIDH STEEL
WINNER: BEST ACHIEVEMENT FOR ARGYLL

Eilidh Steel, the winner, is a fiddle player and composer from Helensburgh, started playing fiddle at the age of six, and completed a BA Honours in Scottish Music at RSAMD in Glasgow in 2006. Eilidh is a prolific composer and many of her tunes are now being played and performed throughout the world. She has always been influenced and interested in the music from her home area of Argyll researching this as part of her degree, and the musical tradition of Argyll forms an important part of part of her repertoire with guitarist Mark Neal. Eilidh also teaches fiddle both in groups and individual settings. Eilidh has considerable experience teaching workshops with many organisations and festivals including: The RSAMD, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (R.S.N.O), Feisean Nan Gael, The Scots Music Group and Helensburgh Fiddlers. She is the musical director of the annual Fiddle Festival in Edinburgh, now considered to be one of Scotland’s key traditional music events for both players and audiences. Web: www.fiddleguitar.com
JOY DUNLOP
RUNNER-UP: BEST ACHIEVEMENT FOR ARGYLL
Joy Dunlop, the ‘close second’ in the Best Achievement Category, is from Connel, Argyll, and exudes talents ranging from singing to television presenting, dancing to award-winning Gaelic journalism. She was immersed in Gaelic culture from an early age which leading her to graduate with an honours in Gaelic Language and Culture from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. A multi-prize winning Gaelic singer and popular international performer, she combines her full time work Gaelic development work for An Comunn Gaidhealach with a regular stints on Gaelic TV and radio. She also writes a monthly column for the Gaelic newspaper An Gàidheal Ùr. Joy is also in great demand as a teacher, speaker and translator and can normally be found at most cèilidhs dancing up a storm and keeping the crowd on their toes. She is the Gaelic tutor and member of the Taynuilt Gaelic Choir, who have had medal success in the Mod under her tutelage. Web: www.joydunlop.com
ROYAL NATIONAL MOD OBAN
WINNER: BEST MAJOR EVENT
Maybe unsurprisingly the Royal National Mod picked up the highest number of votes across all the categories in the Awards.
Although no doubt well known to most of you, a little information might be interesting! The Mod celebrates the Gaelic language, literature, music and culture every year and returned to its birthplace - Oban – in 2009 where it all began in 1892. An Comunn Gàidhealach, which was also founded in Oban, has organised the event since 1892.
Although competitions are a major focus of the events, the Mod has grown to become the second biggest festival in Scotland. As well as the Gaels who attend regularly, the Mod also attracts visitors and competitors from throughout the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the USA. But there’s more to the Mod than competition. It also offers an opportunity for Gaels and non-Gaels to gather and renew old friendships or forge new ones. The pubs and hotels of the host town are always filled with live traditional music well into the early hours of the morning. In 2008, the Mod generated nearly £2 million in economic impact for Scotland and welcomed thousands of visitors from around the world. Web: www.oban2009.co.uk
ISLAY FESTIVAL AND HOMECOMING PARADE
JOINT WINNER: BEST HOMECOMING EVENT
Feis Ile, the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, was founded by the local people of Islay in 1986 to celebrate the heritage and culture of Isle of Islay and to provide a pan cultural and activity based series of events. Islay has a wealth of musical talent, which is very much in evidence at the ceilidhs. Mainland artistes are also brought to the island for the festival week. Since 2000 Feis Ile has been run in conjunction with the distilleries of Islay and Jura and Port Ellen Maltings. Each distillery has its own open day, putting on special events. Concerts, ceilidhs, children's shows, distillery open days, guided walks and sporting events – fishing competitions, golf, bowling and putting - there was something for everyone at this Homecoming event.

Another year, another Feis Ile! The Last Tram Tae Auchenshuggle kept everyone dancing and there were sore feet but happy faces by the end of the opening concert!
Sunday included a visit The Clootie Dumplings, who joined The Islay Fiddle and Accordion Band . Whisky enthusiasts packed the Ramsay Hall on the Monday and so it went on for the week, culminating in a The Gaelic Evening which highlighted the absolute wealth of talent on the island.

These sorts of festivals are an integral part of community life, as well as attracting much needed tourism to the isles. All of the organisers and the islanders are to be congratulated on their award. The 2010 festival will be on from 22nd to 30th May. More details at www.feis.streamlinenettrial.co.uk
LOCHGOILHEAD FIDDLE WORKSHOP/FIDDLE FOLK/ FEIS CHEANN LOCH GOIBHLE
WINNER: BEST COMMUNITY INITIATIVE
WINNER: BEST ARTS PROGRAMME
JOINT WINNER: BEST HOMECOMING EVENT
RUNNER-UP: BEST TOURIST INITIATIVE
Fiddle Folk and Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop, along with their Gaelic arm Fèis Cheann Loch Goibhle is a charity which raises money to put on about 10 professional concerts a year for local communities in Cowal and Mid-Argyll. In 2009/10 they arranged a ‘Hands Across the Seas’ concert series for a number of communities in Argyll. The series, supported by the Scottish Arts Council, spanned musicians from Netherlands, USA, France, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark – and of course from all over Scotland. Although different strands of folk and traditional music have been the main focus of many of the concerts, FiddleFolk has also been keen to give people the opportunities to hear different genres of music, and have added jazz, blue grass and ‘old time’ music into the concert mix. Unusually for what is essentially a voluntary group they reach out to other communities to put on concerts for them. Their 2009 events were held in Lochgoilhead, Strachur, Lochgilphead, Kirn, Tayvallich and Strathlachlan. Fiddle Folk has actively sought to work in partnership with other groups and forged links with the Cowal Music Club; Cowalfest as part of the ‘Gathering Around’ programme at the Cowal Gathering; Tayvallich Village Hall Committee; Mid-Argyll Arts Association; and put on a concert during the very successful Cowal Open Studios weekend.
FiddleFolk also arrange fiddle teaching in five local schools in partnership with Argyll and Bute Education Department; holds weekly workshops for adults, as well as monthly musical get togethers for youngsters.
Fèis Cheann Loch Goibhle also runs an annual ten - school tour; puts on residential music and outdoor activities weekends; and, in 2009, also arranged an ambitious St. Columba Ceilidh Trail concert tour over two weeks in Ireland and Argyll with young aspiring musicians. Ceilidh trails are well established in Nova Scotia and in parts of the Scottish Highland heartlands, but as far as Fèis Cheann Loch Goibhle knows, this is the first of this type of event to be put on in Argyll, and the first to combine young 18-20 year olds from Scotland and Ireland. Going to mainly small community venues the ‘In the Footsteps of St. Columba’ Ceilidh Trail gave a rare opportunity for many communities to hear music from around the Gaelic and Celtic world, and gave some up and coming young musicians the experience of playing and touring together. The musicians played at ten community venues, touring Ireland to sold out venues, and then returned for performances in Islay, Gigha, Cambletown, Kilmartin, and Tobermory. They finished appropriately, given that St Columba established the site in 563AD, in Iona Abbey.
In 2009 a total of 3,300 people benefited from FiddleFolk’s projects, including 1,200 children. For many of these children it will have been their first opportunity to play a musical instrument or to hear top quality live music. About 30% of the audiences at their events are tourists. Web: www.fiddleworkshop.co.uk
MEUR CHRUACHAIN
RUNNERS-UP : BEST COMMUNITY EVENT
RUNNERS-UP : BEST ARTS PROGRAMME
Runners up for the Community programme for their pre- Mod ceilidh, and in the Arts programme for their summer and winter ceilidh programme, this group based in Taynuilt, a branch of An Comunn Gaidhealach, is in many ways typical of the best in community traditional and Gaelic culture. A largely ‘unsung’ committee (except in their immediate area) they have been putting on local ceilidhs for the last 80 years. Gaelic music, song, pipers, musicians and dancers are all involved. In the summer they put on weekly events, and in the winter ease off to monthly ones. Prices are kept to a minimum and local and visiting musicians play for the joy of putting back something into the community, and to give locals and visitors some fun at the same time as helping to promote and retain the Gaelic language and culture. Any money raised goes back into the local community and helps promote other events.
More information from Moira Dunlop at sometimessnoozie@hotmail.com


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