Item Posted: Wednesday 15th March, 2006


Mark Morpurgo

Cẹl Bẹ - Inverness

Cẹl Bẹ in Inverness is an outstanding example of what can be done in a community by a shrewd mixture of drive and common sense. Although the area is, and has been, a hotbed of traditional music, there is now far more co-ordination and co-operation between groups, mainly due to the preparedness to talk to each other (management speak - networking).

When at the end of the year 2000, Balnain House, Inverness closed as the “Home of Highland Music”, a number of users of Balnain House facilities got together to see if something could be done to ensure the continuation of activities for which Balnain House had become the focal point, particularly in the fields of education and the dissemination of information about and between various groups. By April 2001, the charitable company Cẹl Bẹ (Living Music) had been formed, and it started work on forming relationships with other music organisations, and became an active member of the Inverness Traditional Music Classes Partnership, which, through Highland Council, has been organising a wide range of traditional music, song and dance classes for the past 5 years.

Cẹl Bẹ produces an impressive monthly magazine (Traditional Roots) that anyone living in the Inverness area, or anyone considering visiting, should get their hands on. Listing about 50 events a month, it covers concerts, pub sessions, ceilidhs, as well as non-music local events. The magazine is not simply a listing facility, it also covers previews and reviews, publishes songs and tunes, publicises the activities of various music organisations throughout the Highlands and Islands and includes CD and music book reviews, articles, appeals, events diary, new tunes. It is altogether an interesting read. Communities in the central belt can get some coverage through commercial ‘What’s On’ publications such as ‘The List’, but rural areas and Highland towns have to rely on the hard work of such groups as Cẹl Bẹ to communicate with the local population and tourists.

In a recent report for the Highland Council it was sensibly, if impliedly, recognised that one of the best ways to strengthen the growing impact of the Gaelic language is through music. Inverness has over 7% of the population with some understanding of Gaelic, the highest in any Scottish city.

A number of Inverness organisations were said to have an impact on the growth of interest in Gaelic, including Hootannany, the Inverness Gaelic Forum and Cẹl Bẹ. The commitment of Cẹl Bẹ to Gaelic is reflected in their recently adopted Gaelic Policy. Adult language courses will attract those who, from a sense of tradition or a strong interest, take the step to learn the language – but many will come through the medium of music. Playing Gaelic tunes, or listening to the lyrics of songs will, slowly but surely attract more people into the ‘net’. Hopefully this point is not missed by the funders. There is a risk that, with the passing of the Gaelic Act, funding that might previously have come the way of music groups will be ear marked for ‘pure’, language organisations.

One of the mainstay activities of the organisation is its weekly and monthly traditional music and song sessions; the weekly one is at the Clachnaharry Inn on Thursday nights from 9pm onwards, and the monthly sessions are at the Maple Court Hotel, Dores Inn and the Whitebridge Hotel on the 1st, 3rd and 4th Sundays of each month respectively, between 3 and 6pm. These afternoon sessions are accessible to younger musicians eager to seek practice in a group situation, and several young musicians who have participated in these sessions have gone on to form their own bands and become respected musicians in their own right.

In 2004, Cẹl Bẹ (Living Music) organised its first Inverness Beltane Festival over 2 days of the May Day holiday weekend. The following year saw the festival extend over 5 days, and the 2006 festival will also run over 5 days. Having a patron as well known, and well connected, as Bruce MacGregor no doubt helps with the group as a whole and in arranging the festival!

Other activities have included participation in the Traditional Music Tent at the annual Inverness Highland Games, the staging of concerts throughout the year, including Gaelic concerts presented entirely through Gaelic, joint fund raising with local charities and the organising of traditional music at Dores Gala.

Plans for this year’s Beltane Festival have been particularly hard work, as funding has been tricky to access, but they have been fortunate to access instead a lot of goodwill amongst Cẹl Bẹ members who have come to the rescue. Local businesses have rallied around and ‘donated’ venues. The festival has some great gigs and a worthwhile line up of concerts including musicians from Canada, Ireland, USA, Sweden and Scotland and a wide range of events including an open stage, storytelling, a cheese and real ale night, and of course sessions and concerts. It shows what can be done with commitment, drive, and the desire of a local community to continue such festivals even when the funders lack input!
The 3rd Cẹl Bẹ Beltane Festival will be in various venues in Inverness from 26th to 30th April 2006. More details of the programme, the magazine, and the work of the group from Keith Scammell, Cẹl Bẹ, 01463 225469. Email
We would like to hear from groups, however large or small, who would like to publicise their project through this column.

Mark Morpurgo can be contacted at

Scottish Power Renewables

supporting music in communities

Other News

One in a thousand!

Wednesday 14th April, 2010

Our pupils have success at Mid Argyll Music Festival ...

Arts Sale to Help Haiti

Sunday 14th February, 2010

Various artists/galleries we know are arranging a charity sale in Oban ...

Harmony Singing Workshop

Wednesday 10th February, 2010

being arranged by one of our members ...

Schools Gaelic Tour

Monday 18th January, 2010

Over 700 local children benefit from tour ...

Celtic Nordic link

Monday 4th January, 2010


Arts Winners in Argyll Awards

Monday 4th January, 2010

A brief profile of Argyll Arts Award winners and runners up More on other awards at www.forargyll. ...

Celtic Connections New Voices

Saturday 2nd January, 2010

New compositions well worth a visit ...


Saturday 2nd January, 2010

Run by these are the winners for 2009 ...


Thursday 3rd December, 2009


Hands Up for Trad Awards

Wednesday 2nd December, 2009


Homecoming – out with a bang or a whimper?

Wednesday 2nd December, 2009

The plusses and minuses of Homecoming will be debated long after 2009 is long gone, with the protago ...

LFW/Cowal Open Studios

Tuesday 17th November, 2009

Bring £250,000 to local economy ...

Cowal groups up for and receive awards

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


More Homecoming and Hands Up For Trad

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


Homecoming -last gasp!

Tuesday 17th November, 2009


Culture in Cowal

Tuesday 17th November, 2009

A great weekend of events/concerts in Cowal ...

Rhapsody09 review

Sunday 1st November, 2009

A number of our students ionvolved in Donald Shaw's Rhapsody ...

Mandolin Tour of local schools

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

4 schools have the chance of Mandolin Come and Tries this week ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Three renowned Celtic musicians, Mairi Campbell on fiddle & vocals, Abby Newton on cello, and Ki ...

Award Winning Danish Trio

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

On their way to us! ...

LFW/FF Student wins Mod Medal

Tuesday 27th October, 2009


Tourism Award for Theatre Group Leader?

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The shortlist for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards has been announced ...

Awards for Fyne Ales

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Fyne Ales have always supported LFW, so we are pleased at their success! ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Finalists announced soon ...

Readers express views on Homecoming

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Park Weekly News and LFW cooperste to do a series of articles on HC09 Readers letters- ...

BBC Young Traditional Musician Finalists

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

a great illustration of the strength of the piping tradition in Argyll ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

You would normally have to travel to Trinity College, Dublin Edinburgh to see two very special arte ...

Great Houses Of Cowal

Tuesday 27th October, 2009


Paisley Festival

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

If yours is a more classical taste try out the Paisley Festival which is on until 7th November. ...

Perthshire Amber

Tuesday 27th October, 2009

Part of our Homecoming series in Park Weekly News on the Dougie MacLean festival ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

The emphasis of much of the Homecoming Celebrations for the rest of October will shift to the Highla ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

What might on the surface seem an odd combination comes neatly together in part of Cowalfest’s Homec ...


Tuesday 27th October, 2009

There may be few readers who have not heard of the Royal National Mod, but there will be many who ha ...

Jazz Concerts for Kirn and Lochgilphead

Thursday 15th October, 2009

Dutch jazz fiddler Tim Kliphuis has been hailed as the successor of Stéphane Grappelli ...

Rhapsody 09

Monday 5th October, 2009

Celebrating young Argyll ...

View archived news