Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Manx Groups Head for Popular Welsh Festival

The annual Welsh festival Cwlwm Celtaidd has long been a firm favourite with a number of Manx singers, dancers and musicians, who will be heading across the Irish Sea later this month to represent the Isle of Man amongst a host of entertainers from the Celtic Diaspora.

With a growing reputation as a family friendly festival, Cwlwm Celtaidd has attracted an extensive selection of groups and individuals, ranging from the gentle sound of the Welsh triple harp to the unmistakable resonance of the Breton Bagad.

In amongst a dozen performers will be two groups from the Isle of Man who will be putting a firm Manx stamp on the festival.

Local trad power trio Barrule focuses on bold but sensitive arrangements, which have captured the imagination not only of those in the wider Celtic circle, but introduced the concept of Manx music to others who were unaware of what the Island has to offer from  a cultural perspective. The tight knit group, which has a tangible Welsh link within its ranks, will be hot footing it to Wales after a short European tour.

Meanwhile Manx dance group Perree Bane has become a firm favourite at the seaside based festival, with an emphasis on keeping alive an extensive repertoire of both traditional and contemporary dances. A popular southern based team with more than 30 years experience,  and a strong generational membership, their name is a reflection of the male dancers white jackets. 

The Manxies will also be rubbing shoulders with the dynamic Shooglenifty, one of Scotland's most unique musical exports. Although their sound sprang from Scottish traditional dance music, their interpretation ultimately challenged music writers, whose best attempts have led to the description 'hypno-folkadelic-ambient-trad', or simply 'Acid-Croft' which fuses acid-house music style of the late 1980s with the description of a traditional Scottish rural dwelling.

Based as usual in the versatile Grand Pavilion, which was originally opened in 1932 as a Palm Court, it's a perfect central location on the town's seafront at Porthcawl for many of the festival's activities; including a busy programme of concerts, dances, workshops, street displays and a beach ceili!

New for this year will be the awarding of Young Musician of the Festival, with participants encouraged to play an unaccompanied Celtic tune, or medley, on an instrument of their own choice. Aimed at musicians aged 10 - 18, the lucky winner will be awarded a cash prize, have their name engraved on the festival trophy, secure a prime slot in the special St David's Day Concert and a be invited to a master class with a professional folk musician.

Perree Bane
And for those still burning with energy there'll be an opportunity to join in some after show sessions at The Ancient Briton, promising a warm Welsh welcome and a great time for real ale enthusiasts.

Valerie Caine
© February 2015

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Introducing History in Heels – the women who made Mann

Manx National Heritage is looking to highlight the untold stories of women in the Isle of Man’s history in a series of pop-up displays and events in seven of its venues around the Island.

From March to December 2015, History in Heels lets you follow in the footsteps of the women who made Mann. From a Civil War Countess to the fastest woman round the TT course, History in Heels takes a fresh and surprising approach to some of the remarkable Island women and their personal histories.

Co-curator of History in Heels, Jude Dicken said;
“We couldn’t possibly tell the whole story of women’s history on the Isle of Man.  We also wanted to do something other than an exhibition, and that’s when we came up with the idea of ‘pop-ups’. We asked ourselves, what we are the stories about women we either don’t tell or only partially reveal at our sites. How can we begin to introduce these women to our visitors, get them to hear their voices and think about their stories, perhaps in relation to issues facing women today.  Not surprisingly we soon found countless stories to share.

The flexibility of the locations and the differences in the stories has allowed us to be quite theatrical with some displays, in others you’ll simply hear from the words of the women themselves, and some will be told in the very location they happened.  We’re also very excited about using social media to share women’s stories and encouraging fun and debate at our History in Heels events.”

History in Heels spans women through the centuries, beginning with the Pagan Lady to prisoners at Castle Rushen to the era of Miss Isle of Man and the bathing beauties. Other themes include working women, women in politics and women interned.
Nicola Tooms who is also curating History in Heels said;
“Through research, we have been able to uncover stories about women from all walks of life. For instance, we already know about the Gibb ladies of the Grove, but we knew very little about their ‘below the stairs’ maid Dolly. In a public appeal we were able to find more about her story – and it’s fascinating. We hope that History in Heels will open our visitor’s eyes to the remarkable lives, experiences and achievements of these women.”

History in Heels marks the centenary of the National Federation of Women’s institutes and also proudly celebrates the 65th anniversary of the formation of the Isle of Man Women’s Institute from its beginnings in Lezayre in 1949. 

Manx National Heritage invites visitors to look for the History in Heels logo and follow the stories through pop-up displays at Castle Rushen opening on International Women’s Day – Sunday 8 March, and the Manx Museum, and House of Manannan from 9 March. Pop-ups at The Old House of Keys, Old Grammar School, Cregneash and The Grove open from 28 March.  Standard admission charges to venues apply.

Visitors who want to find out more about the project can join Jude Dicken for a whistle-stop introduction at the Manx Museum on Friday 10 April.

Check opening times and History in Heels events at Share your stories about Island women by contacting Manx National Heritage, follow us on Facebook or tweet #historyinheels.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Growing Interest in Snowdrop Walk in Dalby

With the long, winter nights behind us, many of us seek solace in the marvellous displays of early snowdrops, which act as an early beacon for oncoming spring; their nodding, delicate heads a positive indicator of better days.
And so it was that a fundraising event, organised by St James Church in Dalby, attracted many people to Dalby House, to experience a wonderful display of snowdrops, during a glorious, early spring day.

Access to the private gardens of Dalby House was by kind permission of Mrs Clarke, who generously allowed  members of the public to wander freely amongst the burgeoning displays of virginal blossoms.

Set in an idyllic, rural setting, local gardener, Michael Killey, was on hand to explain more about his development of the garden and to answer questions about its care and progression.

There was also an opportunity to purchase ready-made potted snowdrops (two varieties), which proved very popular and contributed further funds to this year's church nominated charities.

But as the afternoon sunshine began to sink a little, those lucky enough to secure tickets for this sell-out event moved on to St James Church in the village, where they were treated to a lavish afternoon tea, including generous amounts of home-made sandwiches and cake.

Funds raised during the afternoon will be divided between the St James Church Restoration Fund, and this year's chosen charities, Women's Aid (IOM) and Mannin Sponsors Africa, as they work towards providing wells amongst the villages of Gambia.

Further fundraising events will be organised by St James Church throughout the year.

Keep checking their website for details, or ask to be included on their popular mailing list.

Valerie Caine
© February 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Isle of Man Embroiderers' Guild Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Although usually considered a pastime for women, the Isle of Man Embroiderers' Guild will be using the celebration of their 25th anniversary to encourage more men to pick up a needle and thread and get creative!

Embroidery and textile art (incorporating more contemporary techniques) is far from being simply a woman's domain, with some of Britain's major, successful textile artists being men.

The Embroiderers' Guild itself is a worldwide educational charity, which has existed in the UK for a century, but local celebrations, which will be centered at The Isle Gallery at St John's,  will include a wide variety of exhibits by Island members (some of which will be for sale) under the banner of 25 Years in Stitches.

The exhibition aims to illustrate the full range and skills of those from the group, opening the possibilities which exist between the traditional and the contemporary, illustrating conventional ideas such as Hardanger and Goldwork and the excitement of something more experimental in an attempt to push the boundaries.

It's a month long exhibition, with a wide appeal to both the experienced needlework artist and those hesitating on the brink of discovery, and a chance to meet the artists and watch members demonstrate a wide variety of techniques. Held free of charge on each Sunday of the exhibition, it promises to be a valuable opportunity to learn more from some of the Island's leading experts.

But there'll be much more to see, including an unusual exhibition of colourful, 'postcards' which were designed and embroidered by individuals from branches throughout the British Isles in celebration of the London Olympics during 2012. Although there were originally 3,000 entries, the exhibition will focus on the Isle of Man's contribution, Mauritius, together with other examples which celebrates some of the other nationalities which now make up the wider Manx community.

It's very much a 'hands-on' celebration, with visitors (gender and experience immaterial) invited to add their own contribution to the World's Longest Embroidery, which was awarded a Guinness World Record in 2004. For those less practiced, members of the Embroiderers' Guild will be on hand to guide those who would like to try their hand at design and creative stitching in relaxed surroundings.

Whilst at the exhibition there'll also be an opportunity to study a number of 4" 'silver' samples, incorporating a vast array of techniques, designed especially for the 25th anniversary of the Isle of Man Embroiderers' Guild.

This will be a special time for members of the local branch, who hope that visitors will take away a new message as the world of embroidery forges ahead into the twenty first century; that it's creative, colourful, enjoyable, never boring and not just for your grandmother!

New members, whether novice or expert, always welcome.

For further details contact Helen on 851258 or check out their website

Valerie Caine
© February 2015 

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Friends of Manx National Heritage Learn More about the Voyage of Odin's Raven

With the voyage of the replica Viking boat Odin's Raven no more than a distant memory for some, members of the Friends of Manx National Heritage at the House of Manannan relived this unique journey by watching the original documentary made in 1979.

After a brief introduction by Development and Administration Officer Nicola Pemberton, the audience was transported back more than thirty years to relive the highs and lows of its crew as they crossed the seas from Norway to the Isle of Man.

It was a remarkable journey, although you could be forgiven for thinking that it was perhaps an uncommon pub crawl, as members of the crew were gifted several bottles of fine whiskey as they visited various Scottish islands and bartered with resident oil rigs for crates of beer.

But it was, of course, far more than that, and after hearing a brief explanation of how the crew was selected, members of the audience watched as BBC Scotland filmed this historical journey, warts and all.

The film crew was on hand to record both their triumphs and disappointments, and the unending generosity and hospitality of both landlubbers and other sailing companions they met on their travels.

On board Odin's Raven life revolved around such things as the delights, or otherwise, of reindeer meat, soup to the fill the hungry belly, the joy of reading an English Sunday newspaper after six weeks at sea; and of course whiskey.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment was watching helplessly as Odin's Raven capsized off the Isle of Skye and the crew's efforts to re-establish the vessel without losing faith in their quest.

Odin's Raven engendered curiosity and admiration everywhere she went, but there were some poignant moments as the crew revealed how the journey had changed their outlook on life and forced them to re-evaluate their future.

And to finish a glorious homecoming as they landed in Peel.

As the documentary ended members of the audience were invited to look upon Odin's Raven in her final resting place on the ground floor of the House of Manannan.

Valerie Caine
© February2015