The biggest annual gathering of Gaeldom in the islands has become the latest casualty of Coronavirus, with the announcement today (Tuesday 31 March) that South Uist’s Ceòlas summer school has been cancelled.

It was to be the 25th anniversary year for the festival of Gaelic music, dance and language, which annually attracts traditional musicians from Scotland and Canada to participate in tuition, house cèilidhs and village-hall dances in the strongest Gaelic- speaking community in the world.

The festival’s success also contributed to the driving forces behind a planned centre of excellence for Gaelic music, culture and education. Cnoc Soilleir is due to be built at Dalabrog in South Uist.

In today’s statement organisers said: “In light of the current guidance issued during the coronavirus outbreak, Ceòlas has cancelled the remainder of our summer programme, including the summer school (5-10 July), community symposium (26-28 July) and the July immersion courses (27-30 July).

“Ceòlas will issue full refunds to all students who have booked to attend and will honour contracts with booked tutors. The 25th anniversary celebrations will be moved to next year’s school which will take place from the 4-9 July 2021.

“Discussions are ongoing with tutors who are booked to return next year. The theme of the community symposium on early Christianity in Uist in likely to also be moved to 2021, during the planned Colmcille 1500 celebrations.”

All events until June had already been cancelled, postponed, or moved online, with Gaelic classes online via Zoom since Wednesday last week (25 March).

Already cancelled from the islands’ cultural calendar has been the Uist district Mòd, due to take place at the end of May, as have all regional and district Mòds.

Benbecula’s 5th anniversary Eilean Dorcha Festival (EDF) in July has also been cancelled – it was due to feature bands including Mànran, Trail West and Peat & Diesel.

Ceòlas board and staff say they are drawing up plans to maintain a profile online, including by bringing aspects of the postponed summer school to digital fruition in a few months’ time.