Monday, September 16, 2013

Port Soderick looking beautiful.

Solace Breaks New Ground in Manx Gaelic Films

A ground-breaking new film, spoken entirely in Manx Gaelic, will be premiered at the Broadway Cinema in Douglas as part of the MannIN Shorts series before being shown at various Island locations, Celtic festivals and film festivals around the world.

Based on the true story of Manxwoman Margaret Ine Quane (or Quaine), who along with her son was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death, it’s taken from an original script by Nathan Russell-Raby who was struck by the power of her story whilst on an organised Ghost Walk around Castletown. The use of the prefix Ine was a common practise prior to the mid-seventeenth century and was a Gaelic contraction meaning ‘daughter’, which later fell out of use.

As the film is set in 1617, Director and Producer Andy North felt it would be more appropriate to use the Manx language as English wasn’t widely spoken at that time, but this provided new challenges as he explained, “First we had to find actors who either spoke Manx or who were willing to learn their parts in a new language; a daunting task for any actor or actress. At the auditions we wanted to see powerful performances, especially from the women who would play the lead part. We therefore asked all the actresses for a blood-curdling scream. However, being a really hot day we had all the windows open and soon found the building surrounded by Police who had been alerted by a concerned member of the public!”

The film, which was planned over a six month period, and used the backdrops of Cregneash, Castle Rushen and the White Beach (south of Niarbyl), brought together a large number of talented individuals, but with almost a week’s worth of filming in the can it would be another year of editing before this emotional story graced the cinema screen.

Important historical documents in relation to the original story are no longer available, and most of what remains about this tragic tale has been passed down through local folklore, but it still made an impact on Andy and his colleagues who were saddened by the way religion, or dogmatic beliefs, turned people into killers.

A plaque displayed on the Smelt Memorial in Castletown (where once stood the market cross) records how Margaret and her son were burned to death near to this site in the old capital.

Adrian Cain, Manx Language Development Officer for the Manx Heritage Foundation, commented, “Such a high profile and professional production illustrates what a vibrant position the language finds itself in at present. Manx Gaelic Medium education to apps and films in the language are all illustrative of just how far we have come over the last twenty years.” 
The film project received significant funding from the Manx Heritage Foundation and other assistance from Steve Christian of Gaslight Media, MannIN Shorts and Manx National Heritage.

Valerie Caine
© September 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Australian Linguistics Professor to Give Annual Ned Maddrell Lecture

Although the last twenty years have seen a tremendous growth in interest and support for the Manx language, its importance internationally is often overlooked, but this year’s speaker at the annual Ned Maddrell Lecture hopes that our success can be adopted on another island which has close links to the Isle of Man.

Peter Muhlhauser is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Adelaide in Australia and whilst visiting the Isle of Man he will focus  on learning more about the revival of the Manx language and what lessons he can learn that will benefit lesser-used languages in Australia.

He is particularly interested in ideas to support his work in Norfolk Island, a small island situated between Australia and New Zealand which is part of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Many will recognise the close historical links between the two islands, settled in 1856 by the people of Pitcairn, which played a prominent role in the true story of The Bounty mutineers; with the names of Captain Bligh, Fletcher Christian and Peter Heywood commonly associated with the Isle of Man.

The language of these islanders, where the surname Christian continues in popularity, is referred to as Norf’k and is described as a  language spoken by descendants of the first free settlers of Norfolk Island who were descendants of the settlers of Pitcairn Island.

Adrian Cain, Manx Language Development Officer for the Manx Heritage Foundation, commented, “Such a visit gives real credibility to the work we carry out here, whilst providing great PR for the language and also raising the profile of the Island internationally.”

(c) Valerie Caine 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cregneash Dry Stone Walling by Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Volunteers


Participants of Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award from the Halton area of Cheshire have been working alongside Manx National Heritage on a significant project at Cregneash.

A programme of work was designed to provide mutual benefits to the participants and Manx National Heritage at Cregneash. To achieve the Gold Residential Section Award individuals have to spend five days and four nights away from home working on a shared activity with a team of people they have never met before.

Their leader, David Achilles, Youth Worker in Accreditation and Awards, said;
“We really wanted to challenge our team this year with some good honest outdoor work in a setting where they will learn new skills, which is why we contacted Manx National Heritage back in April.”

On the first day the team were fortunate to be coached in the art of dry stone walling by Chairman of the Trustees for Manx National Heritage, Mr Tony Pass. Mr Pass, who has a Dry Stone Wall qualification, was only happy to share his skills and coach the youngsters on a number of repairs around the village.

He commented;
...and after!
“This activity is hard work with the heavier stones but very satisfying when you find the one that fits just so. As an organisation Manx National Heritage are keen to engage with community groups on projects such as this one. Through collaboration we can achieve more - young people develop skills and knowledge in areas they may never have imagined and for us, as well as getting help with heritage conservation work, we can create an ongoing interest in skills which are being lost.”

The team completed the walls to an excellent standard and the results speak for themselves; as the photos show, the repairs look like they could have been carried out anytime in the last 200 years.

The following days’ activities included undergrowth clearance and developing a drainage system for Cregneash’s willow garden, where a wide variety of the trees are grown for the purpose of basket weaving.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

‘Wildlife – An Artist’s View’ by Jeremy Paul

Highly regarded on the Isle of Man for his portrayals of local wildlife, internationally acclaimed artist Dr Jeremy Paul will talk to his admirers and sign copies of his book ‘Wildlife – An Artist’s View’ on Saturday 14th September, 11am. Check out his website.

The book which documents his artistic journey in his own words, accompanied with highlights from his portfolio of paintings from the past 25 years, has been published with the kind support of KPMG and Manx National Heritage.

The launch of the beautifully illustrated publication coincides with the opening of his new exhibition with the same title, on display at the Manx Museum. To find out more about Dr Jeremy Paul’s fascinating career and admire his work, come and meet him at the book signing and visit his new exhibition which is open from this Saturday (14thSeptember) until 4th January 2014.

To coincide with the exhibition, the Isle of Man Post Office is issuing a new stamp collection which showcases Jeremy’s Big Cats artwork. The set of stamps will be officially issued on Friday (13th September).

Visitors can purchase original artworks by Dr Jeremy Paul, limited edition prints, stamp sets by the Isle of Man Post Office, cards and the illustrated book (priced £10) in the recently renovated Gallery Shop at the Manx Museum. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fiddling in Norway Pays Dividends…………!

Erlend Apneseth

Local musicians Ruth Keggin and Tom Callister travelled to Norway recently, with funding from the Manx Heritage Foundation, to exchange fiddle and vocal music, and to meet Hardanger fiddler Erlend Apneseth and singer Margit Myhr.

Joining their fellow musicians at Ole Bull Akademiet, situated in Voss in western Norway, the aim of this visit was to share, explore and arrange music from both traditions, in an informal setting, providing an opportunity to learn more about each country’s unique traditional style.

Ruth Keggin
The Ole Bull Akademiet is affiliated with the Grieg Institute at the University of Bergen, and is one of only three establishments in Norway where it’s possible to study Norwegian folk music at Bachelor degree level. This was a return trip for Ruth who had previously visited in 2009 as part of her research for a BA degree in music.

Erlend is currently one of the top young Hardanger-fiddle players in Norway and after years performing folk music in competitions and concerts has begun to explore contemporary and improvisational performance alongside traditional music. Having received the Grappa debutant award in 2012 Erlend will be releasing his debut album later this year. Meanwhile, Margit who has sung since childhood, also dances and plays the Hardanger-fiddle, together with the langeleik, also closely associated with Norway, and the lyre.

Language wasn’t a barrier as Ruth explained, “Margit began by teaching me Hallings and Springars – songs which, like the Scottish puirt à beul, are highly rhythmic, and can be used to accompany dancing. Some of the dance songs used lyrics while others used meaningless vocables. The act of singing vocables is called ‘tralling’ and is comparable with Irish lilting, although Norwegians tend to use more rounded ‘ooh’ sounds, which are produced further forward in the mouth. The two of us also shared lullabies and songs with common themes, occasionally weaving both Norwegian and Manx melodies together”.

Tom Callister
However, Tom and Erlend soon found that traditional fiddle techniques from each other’s country were more complex than they imagined, and that from a Manx perspective the shape of the Norwegian melody was altogether different.

Tom Callister, who has long been revered for his prowess with the fiddle both on the Isle of Man and beyond these shores, performs with new ‘trad power trio’ Barrule and is about to release his debut album, whilst Ruth Keggin represented the Isle of Man at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient during 2012, where she opened the Nuits Interceltiques to packed audiences of up to 12,000 people in the Stade du Moustoir (televised by France 3). She is currently working on material with a double bassist and guitarist.

It is hoped that Margit and Erlend will be able to visit the Island later this year to continue work on the project.

Valerie Caine
© August 2013

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Crowds Flock to the Royal Manx Agricultural Show

As crowds flocked to this year’s Royal Manx Agricultural Show at Knockaloe, the difficulties experienced by the farming community on the west of the Island, after one of the worst snow falls in living memory, earlier this year, hovered on the lips of those who made the journey to the parish of Patrick.

But standing on the cusp of autumn with a warm and gentle breeze at our backs, the Royal Manx Agricultural Show still remains an important showcase for the rural community; and a great opportunity for people from the town to rub shoulders with those who make their living off the land.

Although the weather was largely overcast after the unprecedented heat wave of mid-summer, the extensive, open site at Knockaloe attracted a strong feeling of bonhomie, with visitors of all ages enjoying a range of activities, learning more about Island produce and life in the Manx countryside.

Some of the non-farming highlights took place in the Entertainment Ring, with an opportunity to see the contrasting activities of Ellan Vannin Gymnasts and the Stampede Stunt Company, whose jousting displays proved very popular. But there was plenty going on elsewhere on the showground for all the family, including Spike Milton’s Lumberjack Show, plenty of relaxing music, a nostalgic display of classic cars and vintage machinery and a variety of static displays.

It’s also an ideal opportunity to highlight local produce, displayed at the farmers’ market and the DEFA tent which hosted a range of goods from the Isle of Man, with some well-timed mouth-watering cookery demonstrations in the Manx Food Theatre to whet visitors’ appetites.

Many people headed for the Fur and Feather tent which never loses its popularity but curiosity seekers also popped in to see a plentiful supply of entries for arts and crafts, farm and garden produce and the baking and dairy competitions. Despite the attraction of ready-meals and the desire to remove the hard work out of the kitchen, it’s clear that the appetite for home-made fare is here to stay, judging from the impressive number of entries at this year’s show.

But the real stars of the show were undoubtedly the livestock, the mainstay of Manx agriculture and proof that self-sufficiency remains an integral part of the Island’s make-up.

Valerie Caine
© August 2013