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Meet Catrin Evans, new singer-songwriter

Agus seo pìos eile, a’ sealltainn nach eil òigridh Uibhist gun tàlant san nòs ùr…

Island Voices - Guthan nan Eilean

Catrin Evans lives on Grimsay and studies at Sgoil Lìonacleit. And in her spare time she writes songs – songs which are making an impression. She’s started to be a regular performer at Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Taigh Ciùil, and she’s been away to the “Wee Studio” in Stornoway to make some recordings, thanks to family support and a Creative Scotland award for young musicians. Here, she talks to Gordon Wells about how she started writing songs, what the process is, and how the island environment inspires her. She also talks about the experience of recording in a professional studio, and how it’s boosted her confidence and desire to do more writing and performing:-

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Here’s the Wee Studio recording of one of her songs – “Battleship”. (And you can follow the words if you…

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Numbers Game

Bòrd na Gàidhlig does well to title its new draft language plan “Fàs is Feabhas” (“Growth and Quality”), and the Chief Executive took pains to stress the emphasis on quality alongside quantity in a recent public consultation meeting in Liniclate.

I think I understand why people feel they need to play it when talking about Gaelic, but those of us who wish the language well need to be wary of thinking the numbers game is the only one in town. An unremitting and institutionalised focus on “growing the volume” of the Gaelic speaking and/or learning “mass” may have unwanted side effects. I don’t think I need to spell out the dangers inherent in a target-driven, “never mind the quality, feel the width” tick-box culture.

Fòram na Gàidhlig is probably as good a place as any, and maybe better than most, to keep abreast with surveys and research reports, opinion polls etc on Gaelic, and how they can be treated in the media and received and interpreted in the wider Gaelic-supporting community. Here’s an interesting string – some initial if muted enthusiasm in response to fairly arcane mathematical modelling, questioned (and not just by me) on closer inspection. And “surveys of opinion” are always good for some debate.

The danger with quantitative measures is if they reinforce the presumption that “bigger is better”. Well, it ain’t necessarily so. This piece of research, by contrast, is unashamedly qualitative rather than quantitative in focus. Indeed, a sample size of 14 might sound rather puny to some, especially when placed next to the nationwide 1,000-odd surveyed here for the Scottish Government. But, sure, we can “play games” with this one too. Given a Uist population of roughly 5,000, the population of Glasgow must be at least 100 times that, and Scotland’s would be 1,000 times the size. So, if we were to scale it up, that might imply a similar survey in, say, Glasgow would find over 1,400 Gaelic “activists/supporters” there ready and willing to participate, and a national one would uncover 14,000 spread across the country. Hmmm. That would be something…

The Languages Baccalaureate and Paternal Pride

We’re accustomed to complaining when “the powers that be” get things wrong – and properly so, particularly where our own children’s futures are concerned. It only seems fair then, to give credit where it’s due when they get them right. So please take a bow, Sgoil Lìonacleit, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and all other agencies and individuals who have played their part in this particular success story. (Loud applause.)

Take a look at this clip from Scottish CILT:

Morag Wells, who should also take a bow, (more loud applause, cheers to the rafters, hats in the air etc) would no doubt be more than happy if I stayed silent on this matter – but paternal pride trumps that this time. (There won’t be many more occasions for me to exercise such “authority”…) Her distinctive “interdisciplinary project” that defines the Scottish Languages Baccalaureate as more than just a bundle of off-the-shelf Highers and Advanced Highers really did offer something different, outward-looking and integrative to occupy herself with in S6. That will no doubt stand her in very good stead when she moves on to university.

PS. Just one nagging question. (And no, it’s got nothing to do with whether or not she’s passed, which we still don’t know. Her previous successes in S5 have already guaranteed her a place, so in one very concrete sense it “doesn’t matter”, strange to relate.) But if Scottish schools can successfully offer this level of challenge at the senior end, then why do the universities persist in wanting students to spend at least four more years getting their first degree?

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