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Three groups on the Western Isles have benefitted after Community Land Scotland with funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig made the first round of awards from a new Gaelic Communities Fund pilot scheme.

The awards will encourage the increase of use of the Gaelic language within their communities.   

In all five groups were successful in sharing a total of £49,500.  They will deliver a range of events and activities, many of these intergenerational,  across Scotland’s islands including creative classes, a new festival, delivery of food boxes to the vulnerable, conversations, meetings, walks and a new Gaelic ranger service in the great outdoors.

The successful community groups are Bragar and Arnol Community Trust at Grinneabhat 2122 on the west of Lewis; North Harris Trust; Portree and Braes Community Trust on Skye; Horshader Community Development on the west coast of Lewis; and Tiree Community Development Trust.

  • Bragar and Arnol Community Trust has an ambitious programme to develop intergenerational creative classes, deliver weekly food boxes to the vulnerable, create a new festival with events at Grinneabhat 2122 with Gaelic speaking at the core of all activities.  The new funding will also enable the preparation and delivery of vital weekly food boxes to isolated and vulnerable members of the Urras Coimhearsnachd Bhràdhagair agus Àrnoil (UCBA) community through the winter months.  Other plans include a new festival in February, the provision of Gaelic language learning and promotional activities and an event in August 2022 celebrating 100 years since the erection of the famous Whalebone Arch. “We will also be planning trips for some of our local residents accompanied by volunteers to local attractions which will encourage the speaking of Gaelic and to help these people get out and about which they would not normally be able to do” says Murdo Morrison, Community Officer.
  • North Harris Trust will develop a Gaelic Medium Ranger Service with a focus on outdoor events for young people. There will be with walking and environmental engagement activities for visitors too, which raise awareness of the local environment including an awareness that the language is living and breathing, being used in the daily lives of local people. It aims to  encourage young people to use the language outside the school environment at weekends and in holidays. This project encourages greater awareness of and engagement with the landscape, wildlife and culture of the islands.  “With the introduction of a Harris Warden service in 2021, to build capacity for visitor management, we believe it is now time to take the ranger service in a new direction with the appointment of a Gaelic medium ranger fluent in Gaelic,” says Michael Hunter from North Harris Trust. The funding from Community Land Scotland and Bord na Gàidhlig would help facilitate outdoor events including a mountain festival (Feis nam Beann).  Youth engagement is an important part of the project  and there are plans to deliver Gaelic medium John Muir Awards to local young people.  “We believe this would be the first time locally that a John Muir Award has been run through the medium of Gaelic. We believe it’s important to use Gaelic outwith the school environment at weekends and in the holidays, and to support the next generation of community speakers, boosting language confidence and capacity in a natural way,” continues Michael.
  • Horshader Community Development  is organising community health and wellbeing events, ceilidhs and a photography exhibition where a positive image of the Gaelic language will be promoted through interesting content aimed at improving health and wellbeing. Events such as walks, watersports, conversation groups videos talks and demonstrations are all planned. “We have in part been inspired by the lockdown and the challenges thrown up by being forced to stay at home.  And we realise that there are members of our community who are harder to reach and may not attend our existing events,” says Euan MacLeod, development manager. It’s very important to have a health and wellbeing programme, focusing on improving mental and physical health for everyone. We have had some success already with a broad range of ages who have taken part in our outdoor programme of community walks, fitness classes, and water-based activities. Regular health and wellbeing events for all ages, run primarily in Gaelic, is our plan for the future. The new funding enables us to recruit a Gaelic speaker with the appropriate skills and knowledge to help us deliver this programme.”

The pilot Fund was set up by Community Land Scotland, in collaboration with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the principal body in Scotland responsible for promoting Gaelic development.  

“The successful applicants are all democratically-run community trusts, with the skills, knowledge and experience to support the use of Gaelic in unique and innovative ways,” says Chrissie Gillies, Gaelic development officer at Community Land Scotland. “The projects look at a variety of opportunities, including wellbeing and outdoor events, conversation groups, singing, and lots more.”

“This is a pilot fund to support the use of Gaelic. It is to encourage native and fluent speakers to use the language and was open to community land trusts and community heritage trusts in the Inner and Outer Hebrides,” says Agnes Rennie, board director of Community Land Scotland who chairs the funding panel.

Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig said “We are delighted to work in partnership with Community Land Scotland and to pilot this participative approach to funding Gaelic development.  Community trusts in the islands deliver invaluable work and the fund aims to ensure that Gaelic is used to increase Gaelic in their activities. The projects which have been funded will all contribute to the National Gaelic Language Plan aim that Gaelic is used more often, by more people and in more situations.”

Working in partnership with Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG), Community Land Scotland reviewed applications which were then vetted by an external panel, chaired by Agnes Rennie of Galson Estate on Lewis, vice chair of CLS. The other panellists were Rhoda Meek, Tiree crofter and social entrepreneur, Mairi Buchanan, senior development manager with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Dr Tim Armstrong, senior lecturer in Gaelic and Communication at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Community Land Scotland will shortly launch the second round of funding open to community land trusts and community heritage trusts in the Inner and Outer Hebrides who have ideas that would support the use of Gaelic in their areas. Applicants are encouraged to contact Chrissie Gillies to discuss their ideas.