Edinburgh's independent student newspaper

Seachdain na Gàidhlig festival held in Edinburgh

green street sign featuring gaelic and english
Sunday 28th November 2021 16.37

This year’s Seachdain na Gàidhlig festival, to be held in Edinburgh, will have a specific focus on the climate, exploring the impact of climate change on island communities. 

The festival, which will take place from 5 to 12 November 2021, was first run by the University of Edinburgh in 2014. After significant success, it became a city-wide festival, aiming to celebrate the city’s Gaelic community through a variety of different events held throughout the city. 

Notable events this year include an introduction to Gaelic waulking songs, which were often sung by women whilst beating cloth, and an introduction to the use of Scottish Gaelic on TikTok. Students from the University of Edinburgh have been heavily involved in organising several of these events. The Highlands Society, for example, has created a hanging baskets workshop, as well as a workshop which focuses on Gaelic nature. 

Several events at the festival have focused on climate change. In the green zone of COP26 in Glasgow, the festival held an event entitled ‘Weathering the Storm,’ in early November, featuring the Gaelic poets Roseanne Watt, Pàdraig MacAoidh and Donald S. Murray, who read from their own works and drew attention to the levels of coastal erosion in Scotland. 

The Gaelic language and Gaelic communities remain a central part of Edinburgh. The recently announced Edinburgh Gaelic Language Plan announced plans to make Edinburgh a city which “develops and supports more fluent and confident Gaelic speakers and promotes thriving Gaelic communities and cultures.”

This is to be achieved primarily through expanding Gaelic education – the plans predict a trebling of the number of pupils in Gaelic secondary education in Edinburgh. Bilingual Gaelic and English signage will also be introduced throughout the city of Edinburgh, and Gaelic translations will be provided for official websites. The city of Edinburgh also has a Gaelic Implementation Group, who will play a significant role in these plans. 

It has been estimated that the value of Gaelic as an economic asset to the Scottish economy could be up to £149m. 

Joe Sullivan, a student at the University of Edinburgh, gave The Student his view on the festival and the promotion of Gaelic across Scotland: 

“It's valuable to use government resources to support Scottish Gaelic usage in both Edinburgh and across Scotland. 

“Much like Welsh and Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic has seen its use decline severely over the past few centuries as enclosure and political sanctions discouraged its use. 

“Efforts to celebrate its use and adoption in line with Wales and Ireland with their native languages are valuable in attempting to reverse this decline, so I support the spend on the festival.”

The university’s Gaelic Officer told The Student that “The Edinburgh Gaelic Festival aims to celebrate Edinburgh's historical and current Gaelic community. 

I hope that this year's festival will provide an opportunity to enjoy and learn more about Gaelic culture as well as highlight the impact of issues such as climate change on Gaelic communities.”

Image via Flickr