Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Unique Musical Collaboration Brings Three Gaelic Nations Together at the Centenary Centre in Peel

Manx Gaelic singer, Ruth Keggin, is well known for her success as both a solo performer and as part of a number of vocal groups, including Nish as Rish, Caarjyn Cooidjagh and the Ruth Keggin Band, but a recent collaboration with fellow singers from Ireland and Scotland has moved her career into a new dimension.

Re-uniting the Scottish, Irish and Manx Gaels into a successful vocal partnership, this revolutionary combination moulds all that is best from each nation's musical heritage into something extraordinary.

In a joint effort between the Isle of Man Arts Council's Island of Culture 2014 and PRS for Music Foundation's Beyond Borders commissioning programme for new music, the legendary Comar and Watercolour Music Studio teamed up with Belfast's Gaelic Arts Centre and Culture Vannin to create Aon Teanga:Un Ҫhengey.

Embracing both traditional and newly composed songs, the project developed into both an album and a short tour, playing at venues in Scotland and Ireland.

But the concert at the Centenary Centre also doubled as the official launch of their much anticipated eponymous debut album.

Ruth was joined on stage by the renowned Scottish vocalist and harpist Mary Ann Kennedy, acclaimed Irish sean nós singer Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, Vanessa Hutchinson on double bass and Clare Fiddler Ultan O'Brien.

Their stunning performance also prompted a rush for CDs, which sold rapidly during the interval.

Valerie Caine
© September 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sailing into Silk Exhibition

With the recently refurbished Sailors' Shelter in Peel gaining a reputation as an exhibition venue, the Isle of Man Guild of Silk Painters became one of the latest organisations to exhibit there; showing how art can be inspired in many ways.

Core members of the Isle of Man Guild of Silk Painters put on a colourful display, which explored the different techniques which can be achieved in this medium.

Members of the group displayed a variety of items, ranging from wall hangings to silk scarves, but most of the items on display took the form of pictures, some of which detailed local scenes, or flora and fauna.

In addition, visitors were encouraged to paint a poppy in exchange for a £1 donation to the Manx branch of the British Legion. The silk Poppy Banner has been designed as a tribute to the men and women of the Isle of Man who gave their lives during World War II. All the poppies have been drawn directly on to the silk banner, representing each of those who died in combat.

It is hoped that as Remembrance Day approaches, every poppy will have been adopted and painted, so that the finished project can be presented to the local branch of the British Legion, together with collected donations.

The Isle of Man Guild is a non-profit making organisation, whose aim is to promote and inspire the art of silk painting in all its forms and was established by members of the Mannin Art Group.

New members are always welcome.

Valerie Caine
© September 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Women in Motorsport

As those charged with looking at the future role of St Paul's Church in Foxdale consider how best to keep it a part of village life, it became a temporary setting for an exhibition with an unusual theme.

Women in Motorsport was originally exhibited at the Manx Museum before it was transferred to the west of the Island during the Festival of Motorcycling.

The exhibition covered a broad church, highlighting a number of areas in motorsport where women had made their mark and continue to do so.

Although the advent of women in this area may be thought of as a recent phenomenon, the exhibition revealed that their input into the sport can be chronicled as far back as the early days of motorcycling.

A number of pioneering women established themselves in what was deemed to be a male domain, and with perseverance and determination made their mark in this new world.

Other subjects of the exhibition included those who moved beyond the fringe of competing on the start line, to take position in the mechanical or communication sides of the sport, where they have brought their own talents to bear in some of the most crucial areas of back-up and support.

But perhaps one of the most poignant stories was that of the first solo female rider in the TT, Beryl Swain, who was tragically denied a future in motorsport during the 1960s when her international licence to compete in motorcycle racing was revoked by the FIM. Hanging up her leathers, Beryl's departure from the competitive world of motorsport highlighted the problems still faced by others of her sex, to be accepted on equal terms with men in this testosterone driven environment.

Happily, organisers of the sport now have a more liberated approach towards the involvement of women in solo competition, with Hilary Musson picking up the mantle in 1978.

Valerie Caine
© September 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival Grows in Popularity

 The annual Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival has grown in recent years to become one of the most popular events on the Island's calendar, drawing inspiration from various local producers who continue to support this annual festival.

With the introduction of an innovative weekend pass and a special evening of street food and live music, there was plenty of time to saunter leisurely amongst a dazzling display of locally sourced food and drink.

Centrally located within the Island's capital, this family-friendly event held an appeal for every generation, including hands-on experiences for children to widen their knowledge of the food and drink cycle. Many were attracted to The Children's Centre marquee adjacent to a group of inquisitive goats, practical cow milking demonstrations and the Isle of Man Beekeepers Federation.

The Villa Marina gardens were filled with a large number of caterers, providing succulent Manx Loaghtan lamb to the hot and spicy temptations of the African continent.

Many food enthusiasts also headed for the Manx Produce Marquee, burgeoning with gastronomic delights and lip-smacking goodies to tempt the palette of visiting connoisseurs; featuring produce from both the land and the sea.

This was supplemented by a number of stalls linked to the theme of food, including crafts, books and wheat-free food items.

And if that wasn't enough, there was a varied programme of entertainment on both days and the ever popular Manx Food Theatre, featuring local personalities, food outlets, competitions and celebrated Manx Chef Colin Clague.

Valerie Caine
© September 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture, has produced a ‘Statement of Significance’ on the Island’s Medieval crosses and carved stones. This is part of a consultation and review to highlight their importance and to focus attention on developing a policy for their care and presentation. 

There are over 200 crosses and carved stones, and many of them are on display around the Island at the parish churches.  Some of the stones are carved with letters of the Ogham, Latin and Runic alphabets, while others include personal and place names, Old and New Testament scenes and images from Scandinavian mythology.

The crosses range from simple grave-markers to intricately decorated memorials.  They were carved during a pivotal period stretching from the Island’s conversion to Christianity 1500 years ago to the reorganisation of the Church along European lines from the 12th and 13th centuries.  They are protected Ancient Monuments under the terms of the Manx Museum and National Trust Act and attract significant international academic interest.

The Statement assesses and summarises the collection, its heritage value, cultural significance and explains relevance and connection to the modern day. The statement is summarised under four headings: Evidential Values, Historical Values, Aesthetic Values and Communal Values.  It is the first time that the crosses have been studied and analysed in this way.

The Statement of Significance has been summarised in a 12 page booklet that has been circulated to relevant stakeholders and organisations including representatives from the Church and other heritage organisations to generate further feedback as part of the ongoing consultation process.

The Calf of Man Crucifixion – found nearly 250 years ago and now displayed
at the Manx Museum.  When complete, it probably once formed the
front of an altar in a lonely chapel on the Calf.
These groups and individuals met at the Manx Museum earlier in the year to further review the statement.

A Victorian photograph showing several 10th and 11th-century crosses 
as they were once displayed in the open air at Braddan.
Edmund Southworth, Director, Manx National Heritage, commented:

“This is the first time that the crosses have been the subject of this kind of exercise, resulting in a statement of their importance from a number of perspectives rather than simply their historical interest. This statement also marks a point in time in terms of what we know, and value, about the crosses, and acknowledges that there is still more to do to realise their potential.”

He continued:
“The statement is an important study in helping us to consult with relevant groups and organisations to determine what is best for the crosses so that they can be preserved, understood and enjoyed by the Isle of Man’s residents and visitors.”

Waveney Jenkins, a warden at Kirk Andreas who attended the stakeholder meeting, commented:
“The Manx Crosses and Carved Stones are one of the Isle of Man’s truly great cultural and historic assets and I welcome Manx National Heritage’s initiative in documenting their importance to the Isle of Man which will not only help us to understand and promote their importance but also to protect them for future generations to experience.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

Important Manx discovery made in Peel

September 2015- James Franklin writes:
Photo courtesy of Manx National Heritage

A major discovery for Manx culture has been made at the Leece Museum in Peel. A forgotten play by perhaps the Island’s greatest playwright, Christopher Shimmin, has been discovered in the museum after being lost nearly 100 years.

The typewritten manuscript is of the play, Mrs. Kelly’s Slough, is by Christopher Shimmin, a left-wing politician who was born in Peel in 1870. He emigrated to America at the age of 21 but eventually returned to the UK for work. He became a monumental mason in Peel during WWI, making many graves for the enemy aliens of Knockaloe internment camp, before being elected as one of the first ever Manx Labour MHKs in 1919. He served in Manx government until his death in 1933.

Shimmin began writing plays in Manx dialect around 1912 and he soon became known as the Island’s greatest ever playwright. Amongst the most famous of his nine plays are the comedies, Illiam Kodhere’s Will and Luss ny Graih, and the drama, The Third Boat. But amongst the acknowledged list of his works never appeared the play found in the Leece Museum, Mrs. Kelly’s Slough.

Having been lost for almost 100 years, the play was discovered in a suitcase which once belonged to the great Manx dialect performer, Gladys Cowell. The discovery was made by James Franklin, who was researching her as a part of the ongoing Kathleen Faragher oral history project funded by Culture Vannin. It is also thanks to Culture Vannin that the text of Mrs. Kelly’s Slough has been digitised and made available for the first time, on the website.

“It is amazing to find an unknown play by one of the Isle of Man’s most important writers. This play about the Island’s nosiest neighbours trying to find out how large Mrs. Kelly’s inheritance is contains some of the funniest moments in all of Manx theatre,” said James Franklin. “It is a very important contribution to this area of Manx culture, and it is wonderful to be able to make it immediately and freely available for everyone online.”

The play can be found on the Manx Literature website:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Unique Musical Collaboration Brings Three Gaelic Nations Together at the Centenary Centre in Peel

Later this month there's an opportunity to celebrate the linguistic, musical and cultural Gaelic links as one language between the sister nations at a special Manx launch at the Centenary Centre in Peel.

This unique collaboration, bringing together expressive vocals from three of the Gaelic nations as one voice, re-unites the Scottish, Irish and Manx Gaels for the first time in centuries. 

It was a chance encounter during 2013 at the legendary Watercolour Music Studios in Ardgour (co-owned by one of Scotland's most influential musicians and broadcasters - Mary Ann Kennedy) which prompted this revolutionary expression.

Meeting the dynamic, young Manx Gaelic singer, Ruth Keggin, who had arrived to record her debut album, Sheear, Mary Ann Kennedy was introduced to the acclaimed sean nós singer, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, from Connemara in Ireland.

In a joint effort between the Isle of Man Arts Council's Island of Culture  2014 and PRS for Music Foundation's Beyond Borders commissioning programme for new music, Comar and Watercolour Music have teamed up with Belfast's Gaelic Arts Centre and Culture Vannin to assist these young singers in their quest.

The project has developed into an album and an extensive tour, embracing both traditional and newly composed songs, with music in all three languages; and includes double bass, guitar and Clare fiddler Ultan O'Brien.

Earlier in the summer, members of Aon Teanga:Un Ҫhengey embarked on a short tour of Scotland and Ireland, playing in Dublin, Galway, Perthshire and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

After performing at the celebrated Lorient Interceltique Festival, they headed back up to Scotland to perform in Argyllshire, including the islands of Mull and Iona.

But the forthcoming concert at the Centenary Centre in Peel will hold a special significance, as it will double as the official launch of their much anticipated debut album.

It will also be Mary Ann Kennedy's first visit to the Isle of Man, when she hopes to meet up with traditional singers and musicians from the Island, including Manx harpist and musician, Charles Guard; both of whom were former members of the long-standing folk group The Whistlebinkies.

The combined concert and album launch starts at 8.00pm on Friday 18 September, with tickets purchased in advance priced at £8 available from Celtic Gold, Shakti Man and Thompson Travel, or £10 on the door if not sold out.

Alternatively, they can be bought from Ruth Keggin using

Those involved with Aon Teanga:Un Ҫhengey would also like to thank Enterprise Music Scotland and Columcille (The Columba Project) for their continued support.

(Photos courtesy of Sean Purser)

Valerie Caine
© August 2015