This article by Katie Macleod was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at on 09/01/2020 

Dìleab, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s intergenerational bilingual project promoting the language, culture, and history of the Outer Hebrides, began in 2018 as an initiative to bring local history alive for the islands’ young people.

Over the last two years it has encompassed music workshops, local concerts, and even an EP release, but this month, the project enters a new stage – both literally and figuratively – at the 26th Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.

On 17th January, 70 young people from the Outer Hebrides will be taking to the stage of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s New Auditorium for Dìleab: Air a’ Chuan (Legacy: On the Ocean). The concert will feature the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band, choirs from Sir E Scott School and Castlebay Community School, and box players, pipers, fiddlers, and singers from the islands’ four secondary schools.

Joining them on the stage will be a number of local artists and well-known names in Gaelic media. Padruig Morrison of Benn Lee Ceilidh Band, from Grimsay, worked with pupils at Sgoil Lionacleit on an updated version of Cearcall a’ Chuain. Gaelic singer Ceitlin Lilidh Smith, from Ness, will be singing An Ataireachd Àrd with pupils Alice and Kate Macmillan on violin, and Hamish Scott on the pipes, while Willie Campbell, the Stornoway-based singer who has been involved with Dìleab since its early days, will be performing with the massed choirs. Linda Morrison, from North Uist, who co-presents CBeebies ALBA on BBC Alba, will also be presenting on the night.

Willie Campbell, a member of Lewis bands like Astrid and The Tumbling Souls, was commissioned to write two new songs for the concert, after he wrote five songs for the original Dìleab concerts in 2018. He explains that the new songs – Drawn to the Ocean and Calling Out – were inspired by “islanders being scattered to every corner of the globe, our relationship with the sea, what life is like for children on the island, and our history and place in it.”

“The sea is a strong thread throughout these new songs, from long Atlantic voyages to rough crossings on the Minch and trips to rigs by helicopter.” Willie adds that it is “an honour” to be working on Dìleab again. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for all the young people involved to play at an event like Celtic Connections, and the venue it’s going to happen in is superb.”

And Air a’ Chuan is the name not only of the Celtic Connections showcase, but also the theme of Dìleab for 2020, coinciding with Visit Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. It signals a new chapter for Dìleab, which will see young people learning and working on different cultural themes each year as part of the project. “Dìleab was always going to be something that would grow; it’s got continuity,” Evelyn Coull Macleod, who oversees Dìleab as the Comhairle’s Community Manager, told EVENTS last autumn.

The pupils will make their way to Glasgow on Wednesday 15th January, before attending a full day of rehearsals on the 16th in advance of the concert on the 17th. Tickets for Dìleab: Air a’ Chuan are available to buy online at the Celtic Connections website, but the event can also be enjoyed live from anywhere in the world via the livestream at LINK.

“It’s all coming together well. The sheer scale of it, the fact that we’re in the New Auditorium of the Concert Hall, is quite amazing,” says Evelyn. “What we want to do is encourage people in Glasgow, or people here who have friends and family in Glasgow, to go and support our young people.”