Famous moments for SEALL director

SEALL’s creative director has been rewarded for a quarter of a century of dedicated service to his community and Scottish traditional music.

Duncan MacInnes is one of seven individuals who have been inducted into this year’s Hands Up for Trad Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

The prestigious award recognises people who work tirelessly to help their community and enrich the lives of others through selfless service or charitable work. Inductions will take place at a ceremony in Glasgow’s Òran Mòr on 2 November.

The services to the community category of the awards, reflects the 25 years Duncan spent as a volunteer bringing Scottish traditional music to audiences in the south of Skye as well as nurturing and supporting the local young talent of his communities by providing the musicians with their first experiences of public performance.

Duncan has lived in Sleat all his adult life and a countryside ranger at the Clan Donald centre at Armadale Castle. It was here he first began promoting performing arts events, after the Old Stables building was turned into a restaurant.

Duncan said: “Because I was involved in the local drama group here, Edinburgh Mime Company approached me and said they wanted to come to Skye. I got them into the village hall. That got me thinking the Stables at Armadale Castle would make an excellent performance space and, by default, I became the centre’s arts officer. We put on events with the likes of Capercaillie, Seolas, Archie Fisher and Hamish Imlach.”

In 1991, Duncan finished working for the Clan but realised there was still an audience for performing arts on Sleat.

He said: “We had a very good local audience by then and so a group of people set up SEALL with me. I started promoting events in venues around Sleat and, 27 years later, I am still at it.”

Each year, SEALL delivers a year-round touring programme and the Fèis an Eilein, The Skye Festival. Their offices are based at the Gaelic College, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and the organisation was recently given top approval by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP who said: “SEALL is an inspiration to what can be achieved in terms of support for Scotland’s culture. Over the years, SEALL has become one of the best rural performing arts promoters in Scotland …” and “…connects with the local communities to help serve them.”

Based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College, on Sleat, SEALL runs a year-round programme of almost 80 events as well as the Fèis an Eilein – the two-month-long Skye Festival in July and August.

In 2016 SEALL developed into a professional team of three paid freelance staff, to which Duncan, as creative driector, is one. He continues to volunteer some of his time in the evenings as master of ceremony at SEALL events.

This year, with the help of continuing support from Creative Scotland, funders, members and supporters, the community-led organisation revealed ambitious plans to broaden its reach to venues and communities across Skye and Lochalsh as well as improve its programme. It is expected that 2018 will be a landmark year for SEALL which will host its 2,000th event.

Duncan added: “Over the winter, I archived 27 years of posters and updated our database. We have held over 1800 events so far.

“It is interesting to note the number of bands who began their careers on the SEALL stage who are now doing their 20 or 25-year anniversary tours. In May Daìmh are celebrating their 20th anniversary. We hosted their very first concert as a band in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Kate Rusby played at SEALL just three weeks before winning the Mercury Prize and, many of the nominees and winners of this year’s big trad awards have all played here at some stage of their early careers.

“We promoted Arthur Cormack when he was just starting out and we would really like to do more to give our young local talent a step up the career ladder. To this end, we invite our young rising stars of traditional music to perform opening sets for our trad giants. Years later, these youngsters will become the next big names, attract audiences in their thousands and command higher fees, just like their forerunners.”

Norman Gillies, former director of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, said: “In my twenty-five years at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig I got to know Duncan well and I am full of admiration for what he has achieved for the Sleat community over many years. 

“During my time as Director of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig I worked closely with Duncan in his role at SEALL, and as an individual promoting the arts and rural development. 

“The respect I had for Duncan meant that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig buildings were made available to him for any events that he wished to promote.  We saw this co-operation with Duncan, and SEALL, as fulfilling our role in terms of community engagement.

“The partnership that evolved brought great benefit, both social and economic, to the Sleat community.  Working in conjunction with the Summer School programme at Sabhal Mòr Duncan and his team put together what became Fèis an Eilein, an eclectic mix of events which attracted over three thousand visitors over a packed two-week programme. 

“Duncan worked tirelessly, and most of the time for very little return, to ensure that Fèis an Eilein became one of Scotland’s best known and best loved small festivals.  He also, of course, managed to find the energy to put on a year-long programme of arts events ranging from welly boot dancers from South Africa to Scottish Opera and some memorable traditional cèilidhs.

“He is a creative, intelligent and caring individual and, whilst he would be the last to seek kudos for what he has made a life’s work in community service, he is more than deserving of public recognition.

“He also has enough chutzpah to present the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs with a book of Gaelic erotic verse on the occasion of her opening the new SEALL offices.”

This is the second time Duncan has been recognised for his services to the community and performing arts. Last year, he received a Highly Commended Special Award in the 2017 Rural Touring Awards.

The Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame is dedicated to giving acknowledgement and recognition to musicians and industry people who, by their dedication and hard work, have supported and influenced the development of Scottish traditional music during their lives. Launched at the Scots Trad Music Awards in December 2005, the membership of the Hall of Fame is added to annually.

Electrifying theatre


Until 10 years ago, The Occasion theatre company, in its various guises, were regular visitors to SEALL.

It was a pleasure to welcome back founders Peter Clerke and Catherine Gillard to SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in another of their highly creative works, The Monster and Mary Shelley, which is currently touring Scotland.

It has been 200 years since the bright and precocious teenager Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published her book Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and The Occasion puts Mary in the spotlight as she reflects on the circumstances which formed her unconventional lifestyle and their interrelationship with the creation of her nameless creature.

This is a captivating portrait of a young woman whose radical ideologies and unruly modus vivendi, considered monstrous in the 19th century, had been stitched together by the influences of her parents, her husband and the associated company they kept. Her creature was her salvation, the spark of life that justified her existence, and echoed the challenge to her perceived identity within a disapproving society as the “monster abhorr’d”.

Catherine Gillard puts on a convincing and spell-binding performance as the charismatic Mary and ably manages to place a contemporary mood into what is intrinsically a Gothic setting. The only other character in the production is the creature which sits brooding under wraps behind her and provides an almost silent alter-ego to which she can bounce off her reflections and animate her tale.

Stewart Ennis’ script is profound and compelling. His themes of love, loss, place and identity are delivered with empathy and understanding; often dark but punctuated at intervals with spells of bright humour to bring light to the mood.

The production is brought together by an atmospheric backdrop of shrouded shapes and some clever lighting that accentuate and enhance the changing moods and events in Mary’s life and it was a privilege to get to know her personally through a simple yet illuminating and brilliant piece of theatre.

It is a delight to present theatre of this quality to SEALL. Small-scale theatre companies are sometimes over-looked by rural audiences, one of the reasons being the presumption that they may disappoint. In Scotland alone, there are many companies just like The Occasion with a staggering diversity and range of work who are touring excellent theatre pieces that enlighten, educate, inform and entertain, just like The Monster and Mary Shelley. They deserve our strong support and a robust applause.

We look forward to the next visit by The Occasion.

 

 

Ross and Ali

Dynamic musical duo Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton are taking their anticipated new album out on the road and will stop off for a concert on Skye this month.

The partnership between these two multi-instrumental Scots trad giants from Perthshire has received a number of high profile awards since 2015, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Duo in 2017 and a nomination for the same accolade this year.

Together Ross (who plays Border pipes, whistles, cittern, banjo and harmonium) and Ali (Highland pipes, whistles, guitar, tenor guitar and harmonium) have been described as “rugged and inventive yet true to the tradition”. Over the years they have become major figures in the Scots trad music scene, following the footsteps of Gordon Duncan and Martyn Bennett.

Ali said: “We both grew up through the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band and were lucky to have Gordon Duncan as our mentor. Gordon let us see the possibilities that can happen with the bagpipes and instilled a passion in us to play them with other instruments.

“We really get a huge buzz from playing Scots trad music so I guess that’s why we choose it over other genres. Its the music that excites us!”

Celebrated Scottish Kirkhill fiddle player Duncan Chisholm described the pair as “two complete musical minds, connected first and foremost as lifelong friends.”

Ali explained: “We’ve been playing and jamming together since we were in our early teens and spent a lot of time sitting in bedrooms, listening to music and coming up with our own music, so it’s very natural to get material together. I suppose there’s a mutual understanding about each other that allows the process of making music very easy.”

Ross and Ali are touring their new album Symbiosis II and come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, An Talla Mhòr, on Friday, 27 April.

Ross said: “Symbiosis II is a continuation of the work we’ve been producing as a duo over the last few years. Once again, it is an album of mostly self-penned music. This time we decided to go bigger on the production. The album is a bigger band sound, complimented by the talents of Duncan Lyall on Moog and synths, Martin O’ Neill on bodhran and kit, Steve Byrnes on kit, and Patsy Reid on strings.”

The concert begins at 7.30pm and, as is customary at SEALL’s traditional music events, young local musicians will open the night. Malin Lewis, fiddle and pipes; Lewis McLachlan, tenor guitar; and James Bauld, flute and whistle, all from Plockton’s National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, will play a set.

Ross added: “Trad music has become very popular with younger people and the standard that the younger ones are at now is pretty incredible.

“It’s very important to encourage young musicians to perform and write music. The folk scene is thriving at the minute. It’s constantly growing and evolving. It’s a great opportunity for young musicians to perform alongside professional bands as it gives them a taste of what it’s like to be a full-time musician. Allowing for them to consider this as a viable career option.”

The event takes place at 7.30pm and is sponsored by Fearran Eilean Iarmain who will be hosting gin and whisky tasting sessions during the evening.

Other events coming up at SEALL are a concert by legendary Irish musician Andy Irvine on 21 April at An Talla Mhòr and a rare visit by the Travelling Gallery to Broadford on Saturday 28 April in the car park outside Café Sia. 

TO RESERVE YOUR SEATS FOR ROSS AND ALI, CLICK HERE

‘Cèilidh’ A sell-out

“Imagine a cèilidh that could wake the dead” The Herald

 “Beautiful Gaelic songs … with plenty of humour and successfully captures the cèilidh spirit” The Wee Review

For this week, a lively and fun piece of musical theatre capturing the true spirit of the cèilidh comes to the north and south ends of Skye.

Gaelic language-based Theatre Gu Leòr brings Cèilidh to Kilmuir Hall tonight (22 March) and to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, TDC main hall, on Friday. Both shows begin at 7.30pm.

Wild, outspoken and buried face down on the Isle of Harris, poet Màiri Ruadh is back from beyond the grave, with one last night to resurrect the true meaning of the cèilidh. She has fire in her belly and is determined never to be silenced again.

Cèilidh is a new play full of live music, songs and stories. It is subtitled and suitable for anyone with or without Gaelic, but only those ready for a cèilidh like no other!

Energectic five-piece hit Sabhal Mòr

Critically-acclaimed Edinburgh-based quintet Mt Doubt are making big waves on the Scottish music scene.

Described as “Caledonian pop with a good slug of guitar” the “atmospheric” alt rock/dark pop five-piece are on tour to promote their latest EP Moon Landing and come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, An Talla Mòr, tomorrow (Saturday, 18 November) with singer-songwriter and poet Lee Robert Bouzida.

In 2015, Edinburgh musician Leo Bargery set up the Mt Doubt project. Two years down the line and the addition of four talented musicians, the band have received radio airplay on Amazing Radio, Xfm, KEXP, and BBC Radio Scotland;  Leo’s distinctive vocals (“a voice like grizzled honey”) and the band’s accomplished musicianship have gained high praise from The Herald, The National and the BBC; and they were tipped as one of Vic Galloway’s ’25 Scottish Artists to Watch in 2016.

Lee Robert Bouzida is a young singer songwriter with family connections in Ord. He comes to An Talla Mòr following the launch his new CD, The Making of a Bad Dream.

The evening kicks off at 7.30pm.

Welcome to Skye’s new cultural hub

“Pleasure to officially open @SEALLEventsSkye new hub – great people with a passion for culture”

Fiona Hyslop, Scottish Minister for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

Scotland’s new cultural arts hub celebrated its official opening on Friday morning with a number of very special guests.

During her short visit to Skye last week, Fiona Hyslop, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, visited the new office and community space of SEALL (Skye Events for All), the largest rural touring promoter in the Highlands.

The community-led performing arts promotion charity runs a year-round touring programme and the Fèis an Eilein, the Skye Festival. SEALL’s head office has been situated on the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig campus in Arainn Ostaig for a number of years but, owing to an increase in staff in late 2016, needed more space. Last week, they moved upstairs to the old library room and transformed the space into an ambient and comfortable cultural hub where artists and members of the community will be made welcome. 

Between a wet and windy trip to the Fairy Pools and a tourism summit at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the minister took time to officially open SEALL’s new offices alongside SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate Forbes.

Guests included Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Principal Boyd Robertson, Lucilla Noble of Fearann Eilein Iarman, local dignitaries and members of the Skye communities who were all treated to a warm Island welcome and a few songs by Ùig Gaelic singer Anne Martin. The Minister was also presented with a book entitled An Leabhar Liath by Ian MacPherson and Peter Mackay, which provided the inspiration for a concert by Anne during this year’s Féis an Eilein.

The Minister said: “SEALL is an inspiration to what can be achieved in terms of support for Scotland’s culture. Over the years, SEALL has become one of the best rural performing arts promoters in Scotland with a great reach and range of events.

“SEALL connects with the local communities to help serve them and is one of the best organisations across the UK in terms of its ability to mobilise its many volunteers in a very rural area.

“Skye has always been on the cultural map and achievements such as this are the life blood of our communities.”

Mrs Hyslop made particular note of Scottish band The Elephant Sessions who come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s An Talla Mòr on Thursday, 16 November, as part of SEALL’s 2017 autumn programme.

She said: “The Elephant Sessions are one of those Scottish bands who are on course for a great career. I saw them recently on the Pavillon de l’Écosse at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France. They got such a good reception that the pavilion floor broke!”

On Twitter, the minister tweeted: “Pleasure to officially open @SEALLEventsSkye new hub-great people with a passion for culture- they have @ElephantSession gig soon.”

Kate Forbes added: ““I was delighted to join the Cabinet Secretary for Culture to officially open the new SEALL offices in Sleat.

“SEALL is a fantastic initiative – I’m on their mailing list and so I see the fantastic variety of events.

“I commend the huge amount of work that has gone in to building up SEALL and it was great to spend time with the team and the Cabinet Secretary to celebrate those successes.”

SEALL chair Eileen Armstrong said: “It was a great privilege to welcome everyone to this momentous day in SEALL’s history and the opening of a brand new cultural space on Skye.

“This will be more than just an office and we hope its informal atmosphere will not only encourage locals and visitors to drop in for a chat but will also provide a welcoming space for our performing artists to meet and rest before their concerts.”

Established in 1991 by director Duncan MacInnes, award-winning SEALL has grown from a small community events organisation in the south of Skye to the largest performing arts promoter in the Highlands, delivering a diverse mix of quality live events to locals and visitors in an area with a population of around 800 people.

Duncan said: “We were absolutely delighted with the turn-out to the opening of our new cultural hub and for the show of support from the Scottish Government, councillors and members of our local communities. We offer our thanks to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for offering us the use of this space and for our on-going partnership.

“Above all, we owe our continued success to the tremendous support we receive from our funders, partners and communities as well as our board members and the volunteers who give their time and effort to make SEALL events so popular. Of course, SEALL would not be here without the support from local people and visitors who make it a priority to come to our events in all weathers and at all times of year.

“SEALL is all about bringing top quality events to remote rural areas of the Highlands whilst embracing our Island’s unique cultural heritage and we are proud to be considered leading lights in the creative sector of Scottish culture.”

SEALL administrator Marie Lewis says she is looking forward to welcoming visitors to the new hub. She said: “We are very grateful to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for facilitating this new move. We’ve spent some time and effort in transforming the old library into a comfortable, informal space.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors and artists to Skye’s new cultural hub and extend a warm invitation to anyone who is interested or involved in performing arts on the Island, as well as members of our wonderful communities, to come in for a chat, have a coffee and see what we do.”

Skye debut for Embers

Adam Holmes & the Embers come to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Tuesday, 7 November and will be joined on this UK tour by Rachel Sermanni.

Singer-songwriter Adam Holmes is one of the brightest rising stars on the UK music scene, with influences from either side of the Atlantic mixing together to form his own brand of soulful Americana with a hint of Scotland.

Adam said: “The band and I can’t wait to play at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This will be our first time playing on Skye but we’ve only ever heard great things about the crowd and we can’t wait to see you all.

The Midnight Milk tour will showcase the much-anticipated third album from the Edinburgh outfit. This new album is a widescreen affair with no instrument or sound off limits, audiences will be happy to hear the live performance is no different with instrumentation including guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion and glockenspiels.

When Adam began thinking of ideas for his third album he came to the realisation that his four year old MacBook had more technology on it than The Beatles had available for Sergeant Pepper or that Pink Floyd had used on Dark Side of the Moon. With the confidence that he had everything to hand that he needed to get the album in his head out to the world, he began the process of recording and producing Midnight Milk from the comfort of his own bedroom. What has resulted is not the minimalist album that you might expect, but instead an album that upon listening has been described as an “atmospheric, cinematic experience”.

Adam’s live performances have been described as “atmospheric” or “cinematic” and their concert promises audience a cross mix of musical genres, ranging from folk to gospel to hip-hop with some ska and reggae rhythms,  alongside some beautiful melodies that fans have come to expect of this band. Ultimately the performance promises to leave the audience feeling a sense of completeness and satisfaction, the ultimate aim behind the album.

The “minimal, murky, magnificent” music of Rachel Sermanni provides an exciting addition to the evening. Rachel has proved herself to be one of Britain’s most promising folk artists and this live set will be accompanied by her long-time friend Jennifer Austin on piano. 

More information and tickets from HERE.

 

Monster of a performance

★★★★ “(A) small and perfectly formed piece of physical theatre… wondrous to behold and awesome in the true sense of the word” Irene Brown, Edinburgh Guide 

© Chris Scott

An unusual and captivating piece of visual theatre, exploring Mary Shelley’s Gothic monster, comes to Sleat next week.

Edinburgh-based circus artist, musician, theatre maker and entertainer, Phil Hardie, will deliver Welcome My Son, his immersive solo exploration of Frankenstein via circus, physical and traditional theatre and words.

Based on Mary Shelley’s “The Modern Prometheus” the show explores themes of social conformity, isolation, prejudice and abandonment, told in an extraordinary, moving and intensely physical performance.

Phil seamlessly blends acrobatics and balancing acts with dialogue to build the narrative, in particular the relationship of the central two characters: Dr Frankenstein and his monster.

© Chris Scott

With a chilling and uncomfortable original score by composer Stuart MacFerson, this visual masterpiece is not for the faint hearted and may well leave its audience clinging to their seats.

“Heart in mouth stuff as well as tears in eyes. Stunning marvellous and truly original. Thank you.”

“Fantastic theatre, managed to drag me into the piece entirely. I could watch him all night.”

“Great music and creation of mood…magnetic presence…fully engaging with us, we understood your characters dilemma; great use of the apparatus to tell us about a character.”

For more details and tickets click HERE

 

 

SEALL hosts “the best Celtic guitarist in the world”

A full house for Tony McManus who brought with him the wonderful guitar and fiddle player Julia Toaspern. Tony then invited Dougie Pincock and Jack Evans up for a set. SEALL has no idea why it has taken 17 years to get Tony back!

Tony comes to the south of Skye as part of his tour of Scotland and this is a rare opportunity to experience a concert by “the best Celtic guitarist in the world.”

BLAS festival comes to Sleat

The Highlands’ premier Gaelic music festival descends on Sabhal Mòr Ostaig next month with two days of world-class performances by some of the best traditional artists in the country.

Duncan Chisholm, Mànran, Jarlath Henderson, Ali Hutton, Mischa MacPherson, Innes White, Megan Henderson and Hecla will appear over the weekend of 8 and 9 September as part of the Blas Festival – Fèisean nan Gàidheal – which kicks off at the beginning of the month in venues across the Highlands, Argyll and the Western Isles.

On Friday, 8 September, at 7.30pm, one of Scotland’s all-time great fiddle players, Duncan Chisholm, will perform at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s main hall. He will be accompanied by two of the country’s most celebrated pipers, Jarlath Henderson and Ali Hutton. Support on the night is from Hebridean musician Mischa MacPherson who will be joined by two accomplished and empathetic musicians – guitarist Innes White and fiddle player Megan Henderson of Breabach.

Mighty trad supergroup Mànran come to An Talla Mòr on Saturday, 9 September, at 8pm. They will be supported by Hebridean music trio, Hecla, and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s young musical talent Ceilear Fèis an Earraich.

Mànran are one of the most well-known and best-loved Scottish bands of today. The 2011 launch of their debut single, Latha Math, heralded a meteoric rise to the top of the Scottish music scene that quickly saw them begin to play many of the most prestigious festivals around the world. From then, multi-award-winning albums followed as the band continued to live up to the hype that surrounded their early release, while establishing their characteristic sound and distinctive approach to musical arrangements.

Hecla is a traditional music trio based in the Outer Hebrides. Featuring Ailis Sutherland (pipes/whistle), Ilona Kennedy (fiddle) and Kaitlin Ross (guitar/vocals), Hecla present beautiful, crisp and energetic arrangements of traditional Gaelic songs and instrumentals.

 SEALL artistic director, Duncan MacInnes, said: “Blas is a celebration of our music and traditions and a cultural showcase for the Highlands, which is very much what SEALL is all about.

“We are delighted to be part of the Festival for another year. We have hosted events for Blas since it piloted in 2004 and, through the programmes, have had a great excuse to welcome some of the best musicians in Scotland back to our stages.”