Fèis for the Rough Bounds hits the right note

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In it’s 29th year, Fèis nan Garbh Chrìochan (FnGC) proved to be a huge hit with attendees and tutors again this year, with the final Participants Concert on Friday afternoon presented to a virtually full house.

Sixty youngsters aged from pre-school to 17 immersed themselves in a week of Gaelic activities at Acharacle, led by enthusiastic tutors and supervisors, many of whom return year after year.

Some of the musicians who took part. NO F30 Acharacle feis 03
Some of the musicians who took part.

Music forms a large part of the Fèis (meaning festival) as the local Fèisean network offers ongoing musical tuition through schools and other locations year-round, at discounted rates and including the loan of instruments.

Fèisean nan Gàidheal, the umbrella organisation, channels money from Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and other relevant sources in order to make traditional music available to all young people in Scotland.

Unfortunately this year, FnCG, along with other Fèisan, faced the added challenge of dealing with severe cuts in Highland Council funding, and delayed decision making, which still has not been fully resolved.

There was a wide range of ages taking part. NO F30 Acharacle feis 04
There was a wide range of ages taking part.

The Fèis in Acharacle is one of 47 regular tuition activities, and has proved to be a popular summer activity for children from near and far.

FnGC committee chairwoman Sarah-Jayne Shankland is herself an accomplished fiddle tutor and she led the team last week in a mix of musical and other activities, evening events and a celebratory dance at the end of the week.

Participants were able to choose tuition in three different subjects, including fiddle, keyboard, drums and percussion, chanter and pipes, shinty, clarsach, tin whistle, guitar, accordion, step dance, Gaelic drama and Gaelic song.

Another group of musicians, this type on clarsach. NO F30 Acharacle feis 05
Another group of musicians, this type on clarsach.

Advanced learners could also choose group work sessions, honing their skills in working with other musicians, collaborating on song choice and arrangement, and considering staging and presentation.

Some amazing talent is clearly in the making, which is no surprise considering that tutors included Aonghas Grant, Eilidh Shaw, Ross Martin, Ingrid Henderson, Iain MacMaster, Hugh MacCallum, Angus Binnie, Kirsten MacLeod, Murdo Cameron, Iain Beggs, Chris Shankland, David Foley, Kate Bradley, Ciorstaidh Beaton, Lauren Tait Moir, Robin Cameron and Mike Bryan.

Evening activities included art sessions, a family ceilidh and the ever-popular Tutors Concert.

Very young participants had their own events to join in. Fèis Beag Bìodach for nursery ages and Fèis Bheag for Primary one to three-year-olds included two hours of art, tin whistle, gaelic song, dancing and games each morning in Acharacle village hall.

There was a good level of attendance at FnGC considering the size of this small rural event, which has a relaxed and informal ambience, making it equally popular among the tutors and other helpers.

Seventeen of the participants opted to be residential, which is a popular option even for a few of those that could travel each day.

The added adventure of staying in local accommodation, under the watchful eye of Fèis supervisors, to spend more time with friends whom they have not seen since last year, provides extra fun to the week.

Mums, dads, friends and neighbours all packed Acharacle Primary School on Friday afternoon to see the progress made, and hear about the fun that was had during the week.

Many exhausted but smiling faces were ushered into vehicles for the journey home, and more tales to be told.

Lochaber Ceilidh Trail entertained Fèis participants and locals at the popular village tearoom Café Tioram on Thursday evening, as part of their own ongoing tour of the wider area.

This was followed by a tutor’s session, during which some of the Fèis tutors were joined by a few participants and local residents in a jam session which lasted well into the early hours.

Local band Robert Nairn and Friends provided musical entertainment at the packed Fèis Dance, rounding off the week at Shielbridge Hall, despite the fact that Robert Nairn himself was unable to attend.

The committee would like to thank everyone who helped, supported, contributed to, or joined in with this years’ Fèis, and looks forward to starting to organise next years’ event – once the sore feet have recovered.