Saffron Hanvidge from Inverness is a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2022. The finals will be held at Celtic Connections Festival on 6th February 2022 at 5pm. Buy a ticket here or listen live on BBC Radio Scotland.
We asked Saffron the following questions:
How did you get involved in traditional music?
My primary school encouraged us to get involved in the Mod from a young age, and as it was a Gaelic Medium Unit we had the support of well known voices in Gaelic music. I was also able to attend Feis na h-Oige, where I had the opportunity to do music, sport, and drama in Gaelic, and I began to take an interest in piano, fiddle, and Gaelic song. With these skills, I was able to have the confidence to take up busking, first as a hobby, and now as my passion of fifteen years. I am now studying at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, on the Gaelic and Traditional Music course.
Why did you enter BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award?
I became interested in the competition after seeing some familiar faces that I knew from the traditional scene get involved, particularly Josie Duncan who competed in the final while we were both attending Sabhal Mor Ostaig. I asked for her advice as I was considering applying, and I wasn’t sure whether I had the right experience compared to the other musicians, but instead was greatly encouraged by her to apply. I also love to see Gaelic song promoted in traditional music spaces.
Who has been the biggest inspiration/influence on your music-making and why?
I have been inspired by great Gaelic singers like the late Iseabail MacAskill, Jenna Cumming, and the foot-tapping rhythms of Julie Fowlis, to contribute to the ongoing efforts to preserve and cultivate Gaelic culture. My current song tutor is Christine Primrose, as I am a music student at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and her talent and knowledge has been invaluable to me.
Are there any moments in your career so far that you particularly cherish and why?
Being asked to perform at the Uig Historical Society’s Iolaire Disaster Commemoration in 2019 in the Isle of Lewis was very humbling. I was also very lucky to be asked to take part in BBC’s “Alleluia na Nollaige” Christmas program last year alongside many talented singers and musicians.
Just after Christmas past, while out busking in Inverness, a man stopped to speak to me. I had met him a year if not more prior, but I recognised him despite a drastic change in appearance. He told me that he was now sober after trouble with alcoholism, and no longer homeless, and said that he attributed his initial decision to get help to me, from hearing me singing Gaelic in the street in Inverness a year ago. Now whether its true that it was solely my singing that was responsible for this change I’m not sure, but the thought that music could inspire someone to change their whole life for the better is incredibly moving.
What are your plans and aspirations for the future?
After graduating from Sabhal Mor Ostaig, I would like to move to Glasgow and become more involved in the trad scene there. I would like to be able to work with musicians with whom I couldn’t work with before while living in Skye. I wish to continue competing at the Mod, with the goal of winning both the Gold Medal and Traditional competitions, and become the first person to win the Puirt a Beul competition five times.
I would like to encourage young people to take an interest in competing at the Mod themselves, or simply to nurture an enthusiasm for Gaelic culture as a Gaelic song tutor.
When you are not playing music what else do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy spending time with my friends at home and at college, playing video games, reading, doing sudoku puzzles, and drawing. I love visiting galleries, and I have been collecting art since I was thirteen – initially that was what the money that I would earn from busking was used for.
A “fun fact” that most people are surprised by is that I earned a blackbelt in Taekwondo when I was fourteen, and trained for twelve years.
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