Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for the Gaelic Language and Culture, today announces a major new residency programme for artists in an innovative partnership involving the Scottish Arts Council and the Royal Scottish Academy of Art in Edinburgh.

In what is seen as, ‘a first’, the three bodies have come together in partnership to launch the first in a series of joint SAC Artists Residencies which bring together artists from across a range of disciplines in what is seen as an holistic approach to the position of the arts within the wider development of the language and the culture.

For many years SMO, in partnership with the SAC, has provided a Writer in Residence programme which over the years attracted many of Gaelic’s leading  writers including, the internationally renowned Gaelic poet, the late Sorley MacLean, who was one of the first writers in residence.

 In more recent years, the post of Musician in Residence was added and, Piper, Iain Macdonald, one of the immensely talented Macdonald brothers of Glenuig, took up the post for what was to prove highly productive three year tenure, during which time, Sabhal Mòr also developed the new degree, BA Gaelic and Traditional Music. MacDonald was responsible for a wide-ranging programme of performance events and recordings during his tenure, where individuals from within the community benefited greatly from his ‘one to one’ sessions and community workshops. He also played a major role in influencing the nature and content of the Traditional Music Degree.

In what is seen as a highly innovative initiative, the SAC, following detailed discussions with SMO and the RSA, has agreed to fund three residencies, for a Writer, a Musician and a Visual Artist to run concurrently, with the intention that it creates the possibility for interesting collaborations to occur across the three disciplines. These three posts will be based within Sabhal Mor’s new development, Fàs, the new, purpose built, centre for the creative and cultural industries, adjacent to the existing campus where, for the first time, a provision has been made for a visual arts studio, exhibition area and archive. The centre will bring together a wide range of resource and expertise in the fields of broadcasting and new media.

The new Musician in Residence is Allan Henderson, a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, a member of the highly acclaimed Blazing Fiddles and one of the foremost young musicians and producers of his generation. He brings with him a wide range of experience in live performance, broadcasting and recording both as a soloist and as an ensemble player and, a deep commitment to the contemporary development of traditional music and Gaelic song. Henderson has extensive knowledge of the song tradition and of the important links between it and instrumental music. He is a member of the highly talented Henderson family of Mallaig and Fort William and currently lives in Morar.

The new Writer in Residence, Myles Campbell, was born in Staffin, on the Isle of Skye, in 1944, but like many of his generation did not learn to write Gaelic despite being a native speaker growing up in a Gaelic speaking community. It was not until 1964 that he learned to write in his native language and from that point forward he
embarked upon a remarkable literary career.
He worked as a teacher in Gairloch, Wester Ross, for eight years before returning to his native Staffin. His poetry is now internationally acclaimed, widely published, and
represented in An Tuil, Ronald I.M.Black's definitive and widely acclaimed Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Polygon, 2002).Campbell’s collection, Saoghal Ùr (New World), published by Diehard (Callander) in 2003 was described by Ronald Black as, ‘bàrdachd an duine bhig’ or ‘the poetry of the common man’.

The Visual artist post, the first of its type at SMO, has been split between the internationally established artist, Kate Whiteford, RSA, OBE, who will take up a four months residency with Eòghann Mac Colla, a young Gaelic speaking artist from East Ayrshire and a past recipient of the prestigious ‘Salveson Scholarship’ coming in for eight months. Mac Colla,whose work has seen him travel extensively through Iceland, The Faroe Isles, Shetland, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and the Eastern Seaboard, has most recently been working on a community based visual arts project involving Gaelic speaking children in Skye and Lochalsh. He has exhibited widely and is currently also engaged in a major public art work project in Barcelona.
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Director of Development and Chair of Visual Arts, Donnie Munro, in welcoming the artists said today that both artists bring different qualities and experience to the Sabhal Mòr residency.

Munro said that while Mac Colla is a new emerging artist, Kate Whiteford brings a real international presence to the SMO residency as an established artist whose innovative land drawings and site specific works have caught the attention of the international art community. Mr Munro said that she is an artist of great experience and depth and brings with her a legacy of research and commitment to the language and culture of the Gael and to the inextricable relationship tying the people, the language and culture to the physical landscape which they occupy. She has recently completed the critically acclaimed work,
 A’ Mhòinteach(the Moor),featuring aerial studies of the graphic and sculpted markings on the Lewis landscape, created through the activities of successive generations who worked the land around the edges of the moor and an eco-system which has remained unspoilt for generations. The artist, who also works in film and drew deeply on the work of the Melbost Bard, Murdo MacFarlane, said of the residency,

“Gaelic Poetry and writing has profoundly influenced the development of my recent work. The power of Gaelic poetry and writing both ancient and modern can be translated into a parallel visual language-without nostalgia-this is what challenges and interests me as an artist and this residency is a wonderful opportunity to develop work inside the culture and to connect with the language as spoken day to day.”

For Sabhal Mòr, Munro in paying tribute to the Scottish Arts Council and the RSA said, “Both these bodies show great commitment to the development of the arts in relation to the language and we at SMO are delighted to have the benefit of such innovative partners. The visual arts residencies will result in a major exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in 2008/09.The residencies are all due to commence later in the year.