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Thousands of people will make their way to Fort William over the next week as the Royal National Mòd returns to the town.
Taking place from October 13 to 21, the event will host a variety of competitions, as well as a busy programme of fringe events, which are open to the public.
Speaking about the preparation for the Mòd, Royal National Mòd manager James Graham said: ‘It’s going really well. We have got record numbers this year. We have 3,600 competitors in total, which is a record in recent times.
‘It’s a huge number to manage, but it’s a good problem to have. We are looking forward to it.
‘I have been speaking to people in Lochaber and there’s a good buzz around Fort William. People are certainly becoming more aware of it.
‘I think we can attribute some of the increase to the Mòd Academy. This came into force when the Mòd was in Oban in 2015.
‘People in the town were aware they did not have enough local competitors taking part.
‘We worked in partnership with Fèisean nan Gàidheal. We used their tutors to go out into schools and work with children on their Mòd pieces. We saw a big increase in Stornoway.’
Because of this, organisations in Lochaber wanted to do something similar.
‘Funding was sought,’ said James, ‘and we worked with Fèisean nan Gàidheal again and they have been going in to schools since March or April.
‘We have seen a huge increase in junior choirs, as well as a far bigger uptake and representation from people from Lochaber, which is really positive. Hopefully it’s something we can sustain.’
James said the ideal scenario would be to roll out the academy on a national level, adding: ‘But it’s one step at a time.’
He continued: ‘Another reason for the high numbers is because Lochaber is such an accessible place.
‘Oban and Lochaber seem to be the favourites for Mòd-goers. They are great places.’
Although the competitions are an integral part of the festival, even those who don’t compete can enjoy the annual celebration of Gaelic culture through the myriad of fringe events in and around Lochaber.
James said: ‘There’s a few strange ones. There’s a fringe event for children we are doing in association with Scottish National Heritage. It’s a Gaelic foraging event, where we look about nature and give the Gaelic terms. I hope that will be a popular one. It’s something for children who are not competing.’
The foraging event takes place on Saturday October 14 when Alasdair Taylor will also teach people about edible plants, berries and fungi.
The group will leave Old Inverlochy Castle car park at 11am.
‘Another one that caught my eye,’ continued James, ‘was the launch of an Oor Wullie book in Gaelic.’
For the first time since appearing in print in 1936, people will be able to read about the lovable rogue in Gaelic. The launch will take place in Lochaber High School library at 1pm on Tuesday October 17.
James also highlighted the massed choirs event on Saturday October 21 at 10.30am in Fort William town centre.
He said: ‘Six hundred choir members marching down the high street is quite something.
‘It’s a tradition that has been happening for years. It brings the Mòd to a close. I am hoping that will appeal to local folk. There are other things.
The National Library of Scotland has the world’s first Gaelic Wikipedian, who builds websites and wikipedia pages in Gaelic.
‘There will be demonstrations for the public on how to use the Scottish Gaelic version of the website and how to edit it and how modern technology features in the Gaelic culture. It should be interesting.’
This workshop will run from 10.30am until 4pm in the Nevis Suite of the Alexandria Hotel on Saturday October 14.
As well as the official fringe events, people can enjoy an abundance of music, with traditional musicians taking up residency in pubs throughout the town, entertaining locals and visitors every night.
Trail West and Tide Lines will take to the stage for the final dance on Friday night.
‘I imagine that will be a really popular event,’ said James.
For more information, visit the Royal National Mod website www.ancomunn.co.uk