Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Local Girl Clinches Role in New British Folk Project

Local girl, Cinzia Yates, has recently secured the role of full-time research associate for an innovative project entitled Digital Folk.

It's a two-year AHRC-funded research project which examines the ways in which participants in folk art use digital resources. The project is led by Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps at the University of Sheffield, in collaboration with the University of Westminster and the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Cinzia graduated last year with a PHD in Ethnomusicology from Cardiff University, with a dissertation entitled Excavating Notes: The Archaeology of Cannon Formation in Manx Music.

She was formerly Manx Music Resource Co-ordinator for the Manx Heritage Foundation (now renamed Culture Vannin) and was instrumental in developing the Manx Music Database.

Although the project is concerned with activities in England, Cinzia is keen to ensure that all aspects of folk activity taking place in England are represented; including Cornwall and Manx music and dance.

She's already discovered a dance group called Lizzie Dripping based in Sheffield who perform the well-known Manx dance Eunysagh Vona.

Valerie Caine
© June 2015  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Manx National Heritage takes delivery of New Polaris Ranger vehicle

Manx National Heritage takes delivery of New Polaris Ranger vehicle for Calf of Man courtesy of Friends of Manx National Heritage

Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture as well as maintaining and preserving its biodiversity and natural landscapes, has taken delivery of a new ‘Polaris Ranger’ vehicle.

The three seat vehicle will operate on The Calf of Man, one of the locations managed by Manx National Heritage.  The vehicle was kindly purchased by the Friends of Manx National Heritage, the charity which supports the work of the organisation and it will be in operation immediately. 

The Calf’s primary purpose is as a bird observatory, which is incorporated into the only habitable property on the Island.  This Island is an ideal place to study many aspects of bird life with around 33 species breeding annually and it is located on one of western Britain's major migration routes. The Estate Warden and Ornithological Warden, who will both use the vehicle to carry out their duties, are resident in the Observatory.

Breeding seabirds include Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Razorbill and Shag. Other species normally observed on the Island include Hen Harrier, Chough and Raven. Pre-booked hostel standard accommodation is available for up to eight overnight guests from April to mid-September.

The Calf has an interesting history and evidence of the once thriving community includes the two lighthouses built in 1818, a recently decommissioned modern lighthouse building built in 1968, a mill and a smithy. Signs of earlier habitation of the Island range from prehistoric worked flints and early Christian graves, through to defences dating from 1651-1713 such as the gun emplacement on the Burroo.

The vehicle was transported to the Calf from Port St Mary earlier this week via Juan Clague’s boat “Scraayl”.


Image: Polaris Ranger transported by boat. Pictured from left to right are: Anne Kaye (Director, Friends of Manx National Heritage), Nicola Pemberton, (Development and Admin Officer, Friends of Manx National Heritage) and Shaun Murphy (Property Manager, Manx National Heritage).

Galician Piper Receives Standing Ovation at the Centenary Centre in Peel

With the Anxo Lorenzo Trio waiting in the wings, first out on stage was local singer/songwriter Matt Creer, who gently cajoled the packed auditorium at the Centenary Centre with a selection of self-composed songs which reflected upon a number of diverse experiences.

His gentle demeanour masks a powerful creative force, which explored material from his latest album, The Leeward Tide, but also touched upon some of his earlier compositions.

Matt's relaxed and unruffled nature presented an excellent contrast for the evening, giving his many fans a welcome opportunity to hear him live in the west of the Island and an opportunity for new ones to step forward and enjoy his music.

But for those familiar with the gaita (aka Galician bagpipe), the Anxo Lorenzo Trio provided a rare opportunity to hear one of the masters of this powerful instrument, which is largely associated with fellow Galician Carlos Núñez.

Anxo himself was quick to charm his audience with a smattering of Manx Gaelic phrases, but it was his dexterity with the Celtic bagpipe which encouraged respect and admiration, as he gave an inspirational performance, which metaphorically speaking, lifted the roof off the building.

A talented flautist and whistle player, Anxo's solidarity with the Celtic Diaspora provides a multi-cultural affirmation with his choice of music, which easily skips over the barriers of mainland Europe and latches on to the identifiable structures of its Celtic cousins.

He was joined on stage by a Spanish guitarist and a demon Irish fiddle player who complemented the piper as they performed compositions from both their latest and previous albums.

The Anxo Lorenzo Trio had their audience well and truly locked in their grasp as they turned up the power, and after a well deserved encore were treated to a standing ovation from a crowd who simply couldn't get enough of the talented Galician piper.

Valerie Caine
© June 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

French Journalists Sample Manx Culture Ahead of Festival Interceltique de Lorient

As things hot up for the annual Festival Interceltique de Lorient in August, the Isle of Man welcomed a group of French journalists as a precursor to the main event, when the Island will become this year's honoured nation in partnership with Cornwall.

It's the first time in the festival's forty five year history that the Island has been awarded this privilege, and in response to this unique opportunity will be sending over a hundred Manx musicians, singers, dancers and visual artists to represent the Isle of Man.

Visiting journalists availed themselves of a wide-ranging tour organised by the Department of Economic Development and Culture Vannin in conjunction with Manx National Heritage, enjoying a weekend of exploration centred on the Island's culture, history and scenery.

Representatives of the TV channel France 3, the Director of the Heymann Renoult PR agency and journalists from high profile newspapers Les Echos, Ouest France and Le Telegramme, sampled locally produced food and drink, experienced the thrills of the TT course, visited archaeological and historical sites and travelled on some of our highly acclaimed heritage railways.

They were accompanied for part of their stay by volunteer Manx delegate for the festival, Ealee Sheard, and met with some of the participants from the Island delegation. Two of the larger groups, representing the Island in Lorient (dance team Ny Fennee and Rushen Silver Band) were filmed by TV channel France 3.

During the weekend, the House of Manannan provided a perfect setting for an informal reception to showcase Manx culture, language and produce, organised by Peter Young of Event Management Solutions in conjunction with Culture Vannin.

Visiting press were treated to performances from guitar and mandolin duo Strengyn, Gaelic choir Caarjyn Cooidjagh, fiddle player David Kilgallon, who played excerpts from his new Inter-Celtic piece “The Gathering” (sponsored by the Malcolm Scott Dickinson Trust) which will be performed at the opening gala night, Manx singer Cairistiona Dougherty, who will be performing in Alain Pennec’s musical ensemble for the screening of silent movie, “The Manxman”, and a stunning dance display from Grainne Joughin and Ali Carroon, together with mini dancing siblings Frank and Lowenna Joughin. Bumbee cages by Dessie Robinson and John ‘Dog’ Callister were on show, and Manx art exhibition coordinator for FIL, Nicola Dixon represented the Manx artists whose work will form part of a major art exhibition in Lorient. The journalists also enjoyed a queenie cookery demonstration, with commentary from Head Chef for the Manx/Cornish pavilion, Yohann Bonjus. Representatives from Isle of Man food and drink producers were also present to tell journalists more about what the Island has to offer mainland Europe.

A spokesperson for the weekend event said, “The Department of Economic Development was delighted to support Culture Vannin with the visit of the French journalists. With 800,000 visitors expected to the festival in Lorient later this year positive press coverage will help promote the Isle of Man as a visitor destination and true Celtic nation and will enhance awareness of our presence in the Main Pavilion at the festival.”

Festival Interceltique de Lorient is Europe’s largest Celtic festival and attracts visitors from all over the world and over 300 journalists from across Europe. In conjunction with Cornwall, the Isle of Man will take over the main pavilion in the town, offering 14 hours of live entertainment each day, a restaurant and bar selling Manx food and drink, tourist and cultural information, and a retail outlet for local products. Manx culture will also be presented throughout the festival programme with several major events focussing on the Isle of Man.

This year’s presentation represents a working partnership between the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Culture Vannin, the Isle of Man Arts Council (DEC), DEFA, DED, Manx National Heritage and local businesses on the Isle of Man and Cornwall Council and the Cornish Language Partnership in Cornwall.

For more about the festival, check out their website:

Valerie Caine

© June 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015


Museum to reopen on Saturday 4th July

Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture, is refurbishing parts of the Nautical Museum in Castletown.  

Until recently, the museum which opened in 1951 was home to the ‘Peggy’, the oldest schooner in the world. Built in 1791, the boat was rediscovered in the 1930’s entombed in her original boat cellar, where she had lain for over a century since the death of her inventive owner George Quayle.  His marvellous and eccentric boat house still poses many questions to architectural historians regarding Quayle’s methods and intentions.

Replica of Quayle's Manx Fencibles Jacket made by costumier Penny Nuttall.jpgThe boat was recently transported to a workshop where she will undergo a comprehensive research, assessment and conservation programme lasting several years. The Nautical Museum will remain open without the Peggy and will feature a dedicated Quayle Gallery which will tell the personal story and history of George Quayle and his family including a scale model of the ‘Peggy’ herself, made by Mr John Gawne of Fistard in 1949.

A remarkably comprehensive Quayle family archive has survived, documenting the construction of the vessel and its boathouse. It offers fascinating insights into the life of George Quayle, who was at various times an MHK, a banker, a soldier and, it is alleged, a smuggler.  
Manx National Heritage has reproduced some of the more significant documents in two leather bound volumes, which are styled on a 1780’s prayer book from the nearby Bridge House, the Quayle family residence, which will form part of the new display.  It will feature George’s handwritten account of his perilous voyage across the Irish Sea from Cumberland to Castletown in 1796, during which his comrade Captain Bacon was reduced to bailing out his own boat with his wig box.

Recent archaeological investigation and archival research of the building has established that the site was home to possibly the earliest slipway in the British Isles, and that Quayle subsequently replaced this with a unique private dock, which may have functioned as a sea lock. An excavation of the dock in 2014 revealed a number of finds which will form part of the new gallery including a leather pistol holster, a flintlock pistol mechanism, some coconut shell drinking cups and what is believed to be an eighteenth century microscope.

New gallery - timeline of events.jpg
As well as the new display and artefacts, the museum will also feature an interactive area designed to appeal to families, including the opportunity to try on Georgian style fashions.  Visitors will be able to promenade in a polonaise or parade as a Captain of the Manx Fencibles, while learning about the Quayle story. A set of 18th Century costumes have been tailored by local costumier Penny Nuttall for the enjoyment of visitors of all ages. Visitors will also be able to experience the toys enjoyed in a wealthy Georgian household, sort their jib from their mainsail and learn about the lady behind the ‘Peggy’ in a time of ingenuity and intrigue. 

As well as the new gallery, work is also being undertaken to upgrade parts of the building including new outer timber barn doors for the new shop front and a large glazed timber framed screen of the boat cellar itself, providing views onto Quayle’s dock.  Recently the Manx National Heritage team removed accumulated layers of white wash on the front of the building, which had been subject to weathering and was flaking off, which revealed the original door frame and lintel of the 18th century building.

Edmund Southworth, Director of Manx National Heritage said:
“The refresh and review of the Nautical Museum, which is being informed and guided by a comprehensive conservation management plan, is giving us the chance to study in detail and try to understand and interpret how this complex structure was built and functioned.”

He continued:
“We feel that it is important to keep this landmark site open in Castletown while we repair and conserve the Peggy before returning her to her rightful place and in doing that we intend to develop interesting content to allow visitors to explore the remarkable story of the building and the Quayle family which represents an integral strand of the history of Castletown itself.”

The Nautical Museum is scheduled to reopen on Saturday 4th July.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Getting to the Heart of it - Lovespoon Carving Workshops!

Looking for a new challenge this summer? Then why not try your hand at making a decoratively carved Celtic lovespoon from expert craftswoman Sharon Littley, who will be leading two workshops during this year's Yn Chruinnaght Inter-Celtic Festival in July.

With their origins firmly rooted in centuries old tradition, they're recognised worldwide for their romantic associations, and were originally made by young men during long winter nights or on long sea voyages, so as to express their intentions of courtship towards a particular girl. Some lucky lasses might receive lovespoons from several suitors, which they would  display on the walls of their homes.

The tradition of carving lovespoons is thought to have been derived from the making of culinary spoons, with the giving of a spoon symbolic of the expression of the wish to 'feed' or support the object of the prospective suitor’s desire. It would then be decorated and invested with symbols in essence of the suitor’s hopes and dreams.

The earliest surviving lovespoon, held  at the National Museum of Wales at St Fagan's near Cardiff, is said to date from c.1667, but Welsh lovespoons are known to have been made by the men folk of Wales throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The custom lost its popularity towards the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, but a recent revival has championed the lovespoon as a commemorative gift for any number of special occasions; integrating both traditional and contemporary design. 

Born and raised in the area of Bridgend in South Wales, Sharon Littley has become a leading expert in this field. She initially chanced upon wood carving, but has now become Welsh Regional Leader of the British Woodcarving Association. A growing reputation led to a number of adult education classes and the establishment of her own business Heartwood.

Sharon commented, "Heartwood epitomised everything I did - the medium I worked in (wood) and the fact that I put my heart and soul into everything I do; heartwood is also the centre of the tree = as it's the centre of my life."

In 2002 she co-authored the book Celtic Carved Lovespoons - 30 Patterns, published by the Guild of Master Craftsmen, and has also written for woodcarving magazines in Britain and the USA. Sharon has also promoted lovespoon carving and Wales itself in the USA, Japan, Ireland, Holland, Belgium and France.

Now established on a professional basis, Sharon organises wood carving classes and accepts a variety of commissions, but with lovespoons very much at the heart of her work.

As part of her visit to the Island, a selection of Sharon's lovespoons will be displayed in the window of Celtic Gold in Peel during the weekend 18 - 19 July.

Each workshop lasts for four hours, with all equipment provided to make your very own lovespoon, for just £30. No previous experience is necessary, although those under sixteen must be accompanied by an adult. The workshops are not suitable for those aged under twelve.

The workshops both start at noon (18 July at the Corrin Hall in Peel/19 July at the House of Manannan in Peel) and must be booked in advance.

Tickets for each event may be purchased from the Yn Chruinnaght Festival Office, The Stable Building, The University Centre, Old Castletown Road, Douglas, Isle of Man. IM2 1QB, with cheques payable to Yn Chruinnaght.

The Yn Chruinnaght Inter-Celtic Festival is supported by Culture Vannin, the Isle of Man Arts Council and Manx Telecom.

Festival mobile: +44 (0) 7624 302200
Tel (office hours only) +44 (0) 1624 695787

Valerie Caine
© June 2015



Culture Vannin's Manx Language Development Officer Joins Guernsey Language Commission

In light of the continued growth of interest in Manx Gaelic and the international recognition it has engendered for the Island, Culture Vannin's Manx Language Development Officer, Adrian Cain, has been invited to join the Guernsey Language Commission.

Often referred to as Guernsey French or 'patois', Guernésiais is a form of the Norman language, and although there were approximately 1,300 fluent speakers in the year 2000, this figure has now fallen sharply. Most of the remaining speakers are now aged over sixty five and the language has now been classified as 'endangered'.

Little of the language is taught in Guernsey's schools, but Adrian Cain was invited to the channel island to discuss the Isle of Man's experience of developing an integrated adult language programme.

Language supporters and politicians from Guernsey have already visited the Isle of Man on several occasions, but it's envisaged that this appointment will lead to a closer working relationship between the two island nations.

During his recent visit, Adrian Cain met the Chief Minister of Guernsey, Jonathan Le Tocq (a native speaker of Guernésiais) and appeared on Radio Guernsey.

In addition, the Manx traditional power trio Barrule also took part in a concert at St Peter Port, which gave the channel island audience a great introduction to Manx language and music.

Valerie Caine
© June 2015