Campaign launched to raise funds for new Gàidhlig centre
Ceòlas has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £250,000 towards building a new £7m ‘centre for excellence’ for Gàidhlig culture on South Uist.
The Scottish Government granted Ceòlas £1million in December to help build the centre for Gàidhlig music, dance, language and cultural heritage at Cnoc Soilleir in Daliburgh – but its staff and volunteers now need to raise £250,000 from the public to demonstrate community support.
Ceòlas, a 21-year- old arts and education organisation, is described as ‘rooted within the Gàidhlig heartland of South Uist’, and a distillation of the island’s culture and heritage. Uist is recognised as the most vibrant Gaidhlig community in Scotland,’ its crowdfunder page explains, ‘a place where language, music and dance are essential components of our cultural heritage.’
Since its establishment in 1996, Ceòlas has grown from a week-long music and dance school to become one of Scotland’s leading Gaelic cultural organisations. Ceòlas currently hosts music schools in summer and winter – most recently a Fèis Chullaig at Hogmanay featuring fiddle, bagpipe and singing classes and concerts in Grogarry Lodge, and fireside ceilidhs stretching from Eriskay’s Am Politician Bar to the Dark Island Hotel in Benbecula. But Ceòlas now hopes to host a lot more, partnered with Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway.
‘For many years our community has looked forward to seeing a centre for Gaelic music, dance and culture here in Uist,’ Ceòlas’s website reads. ‘ We are excited to be at the threshold of achieving this ambitious project for Uist, and need your help now to make this happen by donating to the capital fund.
‘Through supporting this project you will be helping to make Uist an attractive place for people to live and visit, giving families more reason to stay in the islands and hopefully stem the flow of young people leaving the island. This building will be a game changer, not only for Ceòlas and Lews Castle College UHI but for the whole island community.’
Pledging £1million to the Cnoc Soillier project, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: ‘The establishment of a multi-functioning Gaidhlig education and arts centre in Uist will create over 40 full-time equivalent jobs in the coming years and generate significant benefits for the local economy. It will also secure a sustainable future for Gaelic in the area.’
Cnoc Soilleir, meaning ‘Hill of Bright Light’, will support the growth of Ceòlas’ Summer School, winter festival, song conference and symposium, as well as Lews Castle College’s LCC music programmes, including a BA in applied music, MA in music and the environment, an HNC music, and other creative industry courses.
Ceòlas projects that, by 2022, there will be ten new Ceòlas events delivered from Cnoc Soilleir, and that the winter festival and summer school will attract more than 2,000 visitors to the island. It also estimates the project will directly and indirectly create 41 new full-time equivalent jobs, and attract 91 new people living permanently in Uist.
Architect John Renshaw, who undertook a feasibility study in 2015, said: ‘ We are thrilled Ceòlas are at the point of developing such an important building for the celebration, performance and teaching of Gaidhlig music, dance and cultural heritage.’
The new building promises an ‘exemplary modern teaching and working environment with ideal acoustics and ambience for experiencing, performing and teaching traditional music, dance and Gàidhlig’, ‘characterised by plentiful natural daylight’ and ‘an intimate connection with the surrounding landscape’.
For more information, and to donate, you can visit www.ceolas.co.uk.
Above and below: Architects’ concept drawings of the proposed building in Daliburgh © John Renshaw Architects 2016