Celtic News

Latest news from Celts all over the world...

Belfast to host a celebration of the Irish harp

In September, the Linen Hall Library will host a unique event to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Irish Harp Society of Belfast. The Library, in the city’s Donegal Square, is renowned for its unparalleled Irish and Local Studies Collection and includes plenty of material related to Ireland’s national instrument.

The event, to be held on 12th September, will feature insights into the library’s famous Beath Collection whose focus is mainly musical, including the papers of Edward Bunting who transcribed and published music from the last official gathering of Irish harp players in 1792.  Without Bunting’s efforts, many famous Irish airs would have been lost forever.

It will also showcase the Belfast Irish Harp Society, which was founded in 1819, and was the catalyst for John Egan's forays into "Irish" harp making.  Egan was a Dublin pedal harp maker who was commissioned to make Irish Harps for the Society's school. As the Irish harp fell out of favour, his new "Royal Portable Harp" became the inspiration for today's lever harps.

That’s the type of harp that many of today’s famous practitioners travel with and performers, including Simon Chadwick and Lily Neil, will be showcasing their talents on the day. Neil said that this will be “The only event taking place to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Irish Harp Society and is a golden opportunity to bring attention to a little-known chapter in Irish music history.”

As well as harpists, there will be poetry from Philip McDonagh – who has collaborated with Neil in the past – and talks from well-known authorities in the area such as Dr. Mary Louise O'Donnell.


A Celebration of The Beath Collection, and the Bicentennial of the Irish Harp Society of Belfast (1819-39)

Linen Hall Library, 17 Donegall Square North Belfast BT1 5GB

Thursday, September 12th 2019 (3:30 – 7:30pm) 



See the Isle of Man – at 200mph! It’s TT time.

You don’t have to be mad to take part in the Isle of Man TT Races, but it probably helps. For more than 100 years, two-wheeled petrol heads have descended on the island to race around its 37-mile course at speeds that seem to defy the laws of physics. And this year’s adrenalin festival kicks off on 25th May.

A must-see event for every true motorsports fan, the TT (short for Tourist Trophy) is far removed from the sanitised big-money world of Formula One and other corporatised race series. Here the riders are competing on public roads with no run-off areas or catch fencing to bail them out if they make a mistake. 

There are classes for various types of motorcycles, depending mainly on engine size, but all are in the format of a time-trial with riders setting off at intervals. The first week is typically given over to practice sessions, with the races themselves taking place this year from 1st to 7th June.

Those not travelling at 200mph can relax and enjoy the scenery, entertainment and food on offer during the event. Spectators can view the racing from one of the grandstands at the start/finish or from vantage points around the circuit.

For more details on this year’s TT, including schedules and practical information for visitors, go to:  https://www.iomttraces.com/

Love whisky, music and dancing? Get yourself over to Islay!

The Scottish Hebrides are getting ready for one of their biggest events of the year - the Islay Festival of Music and Malt. Kicking off on 24th May and running through to 1st June, the festival is now in its 30th year, so clearly the organisers are doing something right!

The Island’s distilleries hold open days during the festival, though you would need a stout constitution to get round all 10 of them (oh, and there are two gin producers as well in case you’re still thirsty).  Alongside household names like Laphroaig you’ll find less well-known producers like Bunnahabhain and Ardnahoe in this important and historic whisky-producing region.

The distillery open-days are accompanied by a full programme of entertainment, including music, dance, arts and crafts, boat trips and copious amounts of local food. Music will also be on offer at several of the island’s halls and hotels, along with a ceilidh or two.

For a full programme of events and a guide to the festival, go to:

Links: https://www.islay.blog/article.php/guide-to-islay-festival-2019

Government announces new measures to boost Irish language

The government, has announced the establishment of a new €250,000 fund to enable Irish language students to spend three months living with families in the Gaeltacht, the predominantly Irish speaking areas in the west of the country. Around 100,000 people live in the Gaeltacht which include extensive parts of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry along the western seaboard – and also parts of counties Cork, Meath and Waterford.

This measure is expected to accommodate up to 175 students as part of the Government’s Action Plan 2018-2022 for the Irish Language, launched in June 2018. This, in turn, supports the 2010-30 Irish Language Strategy which aims to increase the use of Irish as a daily language of communication, to encourage the use of Irish in business and public life and to make Irish more visible in society, for example thorugh signage and literature.

The Minister of State said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to announce this new funding in further supporting third level students across Ireland to further enrich their Irish through spending three months living with Gaeltacht families while they are attending a qualification course in the Gaeltacht… Of course this will also help to further develop the state system’s capacity in attending to the extra demands on services that are provided through Irish at present and in the future.“

Welsh National Eisteddfod honours revealed

It’s not often you see rugby players, a royal harpist and a comedian on the same bill, but they are among some of the luminaries who will be honoured by the Gorsedd of Bards at Wales’ primary cultural celebration.

The National Eisteddfod will take place in August at Conwy in north Wales. As well as featuring a wide range of cultural events it is also an opportunity to recognise individuals from all parts of the country for their achievements and their commitment to Wales, the Welsh language and to their local communities. 

This year, rugby stars Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens, both part of the Wales team that triumphed in the Six Nations Championship, will receive the accolades alongside royal harpist Katrin Finch. Presenter and comedian Tudur Jones will also be honoured.

The Gorsedd, or meeting of bards, is an association of writers, musicians, artists and others who have contributed to the Welsh nation. Those admitted are awarded different coloured robes depending on thee areas in which they have excelled.

Links: https://eisteddfod.wales/2019-eisteddfod

Performers announced for the Isle of Man’s Celtic Gathering - Yn Chruinnaght festival

With the Isle of Man’s largest Celtic festival just over two months away, the organisers have revealed who will be performing at the week-long event that kicks off on July 15th.

Yn Chruinnaght – the Manx National Festival or ‘gathering’ – has been held in Peel for more than 40 years to celebrate Manx culture and the relationship between the Isle of Man and the other five Celtic countries. The event always attracts some of the biggest names in Celtic music. 

Welsh supergroup Mabon (https://jamiesmithsmabon.com/), fresh from a tour of Australia, will open the concert series on 17th July in the Centenary Centre. Joining them will be the Isle of Man’s own The Mollag Band (https://www.facebook.com/themollags/) who will be heading off to represent the island at the world’s biggest Celtic festival, The Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany, a month later.

Read more 

From James Bond to Harry Potter - Scotland in the Movies

Like films? Love Scotland? You’re in luck! Visit Scotland’s book Set in Scotland – A Film Fan’s Odyssey will tell you all about the more than 100 movies made in the country that was named by USA Today as the world’s Best Cinematic Destination.

James Bond - Celtic Link

From classics like The 39 Steps, Whisky Galore and the Wicker Man, to Local Hero, Trainspotting, Highlander, Braveheart and the Da Vinci Code, Scotland’s cities, highlands, lowlands, mountains, islands and lochs have provided the backdrop to many famous films. And of course, Scotland has made numerous appearances in some of the biggest blockbuster franchises of all time, the James Bond and Harry Potter series.

Armed with a copy of Set in Scotland, film fans can track down the iconic railway bridge traversed by the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Lochaber), the beach in the iconic opening sequence of Chariots of Fire (St Andrews) or the loch where Bond and ‘M’ pause in his Aston Martin on the way to Skyfall (Glen Etive). 

There are some surprises in here as well. Who knew that the island of Harris stood in for the surface of Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey or that parts of the Batman classic The Dark Knight Rises were filmed in the Highlands?

An essential guide for film buffs and trivia fanatics everywhere.

Find ‘Set in Scotland’ at:


Is there a looming Welsh language crisis?

The government’s target of increasing the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050 looks like a tough ask, with latest figures showing a 50% decline in the number of teenagers taking an A Level in the language over the last 10 years.

In 2018, just 528 students signed up for both first and second language Welsh A levels at schools and further education colleges. This is a big challenge for the new Welsh language Commissioner, Aled Roberts, who took up his post in April 2019

Roberts is aware of the size of the task in front of him. Asked about the challenges he faces in the post he said: "The same challenges as my predecessor faced really, to ensure that the Welsh language standards are properly applied throughout the public sector, to oversee the introduction of standards to new parts of the public sector and then probably the greatest challenge is to see how can contribute towards the target the Welsh Government has set to achieve a million Welsh speakers  by 2050.”

The government has announced £145,000 in additional spending on the promotion of Welsh for 2020.

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New Scottish cultural centre proposed

Plans to create a Scottish Cultural Centre on Vancouver Island, Victoria, are underway following the Highland Games Association acquisition of the historic
Craigflower Manor.

Once completed, the new centre will open for public tours, arts events, educational classes and interpretation activities to foster Scottish and Celtic culture.

Fundraising has begun and construction is
set to commence in 2018.

Surge in Celtic knot tattoos

Americans of Celtic descent are celebrating their ancestry more and more through body art, particularly tattoos.

Tattoo artists at a recent tattoo convention declared that demand for Celtic knots and other centuries-old traditional Celtic artwork was making a huge comeback.

The thousand-year-old image of the Celtic Knot, characterised by thick
interlocking lines that looks like rope, has quickly become the most common tattoo for Irish-Americans.

One tattoo artist claimed he was tattooing 40 people a week with Celtic artwork. Celtic tattoos first gained popularity on the west coast of the USA in the 1970s, but soon fell out of fashion until recent times.

Kernewek Lowender

Planning for the next Kernewek Lowender, arguably the world’s largest Cornish festival is well underway.

This unique major cultural festival for South Australia has been held biennially in the three Copper Coast towns of Moonta, Wallaroo and Kadina since 1973.

The festival routinely attracts more than 40,000 people who gather to celebrate the region’s significant Cornish heritage.

With a new focus and drive to reignite the flame for the festival, the committee is replanning and refreshing the festival.

Organisers claim that the secret of longevity for the festival is its unique authentic program of fun and feasting.


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