As the last notes of the final strip-the-willow echoed out over the Crossapol shore, exhausted Fèis Thiriodh committee members looked back over a packed and successful festival that celebrates the island’s music and culture.
2015 was the 25th year of the Fèis and the anniversary was celebrated in some style. The week started with a lovely joint service at Heylipol Church, where singers Linda MacLeod from Uist and Iona Brown were aided by some little people on paper musical instruments. Monday saw the 25th Anniversary Concert and 220 people packed the hall to hear some of the island’s most famous musical stars. Angus MacPhail from Skipinnish, Daniel and Martin Gillespie of Skerryvore and Campbell Brown from Gunna Sound had taken the time to come over and support the Fèis. They were joined by this year’s tutors and other past tutors, including Arthur Cormack from Fèisean nan Gàidheal and Donald Black, who waved one hand with great enthusiasm to arouse the audience while playing the mouth organ with the other. Founder member Flora MacPhail, whose newly written theme song for the Fèis became an instant hit, was particularly thanked, along with Joyce MacInnes and John Holliday for their tireless work promoting music on the island.
The next evening Ian Smith presented the results of his year’s research into the island’s past prolific whisky production, before unveiling a plan to look into setting up a micro-distillery on Tiree in the future. The children’s dance was sold out with 200 jigging and reeling to Eilidh MacFadyen’s band. The first ‘game’ took so long because of the number of competitors that it became the last game too! The ‘Muse Cruise’ to Barra attracted 108 music lovers. The six-hour session and sing-along was only interrupted by a strip-the-willow on Castlebay pier, complete with a number of canoeists still in their wetsuits and lifejackets! The dancers and pipers of Fèis Bharraigh gave the ferry a send-off to remember with a Highland dance perilously close to the pier edge followed by a blast from the ship’s horn and a lone Tiree piper on the ship’s aft deck. Trail West rounded off the week with a dance described by Ian Smith as “brilliant”.
Numbers at the classes were up again with 61 at the main Fèis, 33 at Fèis Bheag and 40 at Fèis Bheag Bheag for the under-5s. This was back to the levels last seen during the golden days of the Fèis in the 1990s. The Tiree Fèis has had its low points over the past 25 years. When the Hall closed its doors for a year the Fèis also closed and a party of children went up to the Uist Fèis instead. When the school closed for maintenance for several years classes were held in An Talla and in nearby caravans. Numbers attending went down so much that some committee members felt the Fèis had had its day.
Tutors this year were Andrew Findlater (drums), Alain Campbell (guitar), Ian Smith & Gordon Connell (accordion), Scott Wood (pipes), Jamie MacDonald (fiddle), Linda MacLeod (singing), Doc Holliday (flute and whistle), Eleanor Sinclair (dancing), Iain MacKinnon (Gaelic conversation), John Angus MacKinnon (film making), Artair Donald (drama), with Iona Brown, Tara Rankin and Eilidh MacFadyen (Fèis Bheag).
The committee, under the leadership of chair Eilidh Campbell and vice-chair Sheila MacKinnon declared themselves delighted with how the festival had gone, before going off for a well-earned sleep. Committee member Dr John Holliday told An Tirisdeach, “This has been the best-ever Fèis Thiriodh. It has roared back to life for its 25th anniversary, and the enthusiasm for Gaelic and the island’s culture is very encouraging. It was remarkable how youthful and vibrant the tutors were this year, how many of them are fluent and proud Gaelic speakers, and how many have come through the ranks of the Fèis itself. Tiree, truly Scotland’s musical island, is lucky to have them, and I hope they will see and enjoy the 50th anniversary of Fèis Thiriodh as much as we have enjoyed the 25th.”
Hard copies of the programme can be purchased for £1 in The Coop.
Fèis Thiriodh 2015 – The 25th Anniversary Special
The Fèis Thiriodh committee are pleased to report that dates have been set and preparations are going well for this year’s event. The weeklong event of workshops, ceilidhs, talks and much more will be taking place from Sunday 5th to Friday 10th of July and we are excited to welcome back Tiree favourites ‘Trail West’ as our main tutors for the special 25th Anniversary event. Joining Trail West regulars; Ian, Alain and Andrew will be a host of other talented tutors who are all well-known to Tiree, including; Jamie MacDonald, Artair Donald, Iona Brown, John Angus MacKinnon, Eilidh MacFadyen, Eleanor Sinclair, John Holliday, Tara Rankin, Scott Wood, Linda MacLeod.
The 5 day tutoring event offers children aged 9 and over and adults, the opportunity to try their hand at a variety of different workshops including; accordion, guitar, pipes, drums, fiddle, flute/whistle, highland dancing, Gaelic conversation and film making. For the under 8 year olds, Fèis Bheag will run throughout the week along with Fèis Bheag Bheag running on four days for the under 5s.
As well as the day time workshops and activities we will also be running various evening and fringe events, which have proven to be very popular over the years. To celebrate our 25th Anniversary we are organising a ‘Ceilidh Ceann-bliadhna’ – Anniversary Concert – for the Monday evening. This will showcase a host of extremely talented and now famous past tutors and students returning to Fèis Thiriodh to entertain us with music, singing and dancing, which we hope will put everyone in the mood for a weeklong celebration of events. Other events will include; the popular children’s dance, a talk by Ian Smith on the history of whisky on Tiree and of course, the closing dance on the Friday evening, which will be led by Trail West. After taking a year off last year we have also decided to bring back the very popular ‘Muse Cruise’ on the Thursday afternoon. This will see Fèis Thiriodh being transported on a six hour floating session with the tutors on the MV Clansman for a round trip to Barra and back. Come along to sing, play or just listen.
We only have to look at the numerous successful bands and musicians that hail from Tiree to realise that Fèis Thiriodh has had a very influential and successful 25 years, providing music and culture workshops and events to locals and visitors alike. We hope that you are all looking forward to Fèis 2015 and will join us to celebrate and ensure the 25th Annual Fèis is as popular and successful as previous Fèisean.
FEIS BOOKING FORM DOWNLOAD – [CLICK HERE]
FEIS BHEAG BOOKING FORM DOWNLOAD – [CLICK HERE]
booking forms must be returned by Wednesday 1st July.
email to firstname.lastname@example.org or
post to Feis Thiriodh, c/o Shari MacKinnon, 2 Barrapol, Isle of Tiree, PA77 6XJ