Congratulations to The Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail who has been nominated in Community Project of the Year sponsored by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland in the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2023. Vote for The Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail now!. It’s going to be another great night at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards on Saturday 2nd December in Dundee’s Caird Hall. Why not join us for a brilliant night of music and awards. Buy a ticket here.
We asked Fiona of The Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail the following questions.
Tell us about yourself
Founded in 1986, Fèis Rois provides opportunities for thousands of people of all ages to access, participate in and enjoy traditional music every year. As a charity, Fèis Rois offers a diverse programme of music-making activities in Ross & Cromarty, across Scotland and beyond.
Based in Dingwall, Fèis Rois is widely recognised as a national leader in the arts, particularly in music education. The organisation aims to give young people and lifelong learners the opportunity to experience and engage with traditional music and Gaelic culture in a way that supports them to develop their social skills and inspires them to reach their full potential.
Fèis Rois’s annual activity includes a Cèilidh Trail. The Ceilidh Trail project began in the year 2000, and it is a model that has now been adopted by lots of local community Fèisean across Scotland.
The Ceilidh Trail provides a paid work experience and professional development opportunity for young musicians, and it is also an important cultural tourism initiative with performance taking place across Scotland during the peak tourist season of July and August.
For 23 years, Fèis Rois has offered an opportunity for the next generation of traditional music performers in Scotland to take part in The Ceilidh Trail. More than 100 former participants now make all or part of their living from working in music and/or the arts in Scotland. New for 2023, Fèis Rois offered young adults with learning disabilities the opportunity to access The Ceilidh Trail experience and to perform alongside their peers aged 16 to 25.
Why are you involved in Scottish music?
Fèis Rois believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make music and to explore Scotland's cultural heritage through our rich and varied traditional music. Fèis Rois (meaning “Ross-Shire Festival”) wants to see a Scotland that nurtures, values and celebrates traditional music and the Gaelic language at home and around the world. We are involved in Scottish music to help make this happen!
People and communities are at the heart of everything we do. Wellbeing, fun, creativity and music are central to Fèis Rois. We are ambitious in all that we do, and we nurture others to realise their own ambitions.
The Cèilidh Trail, which was established by Fèis Rois in 2000, is a professional development opportunity, as well as a paid summer job, for outstanding young traditional musicians, providing them with the chance to participate in a 4-week summer tour, with support from a team of professional musicians and specialist tutors. The musicians spend a week rehearsing and participating in workshops, including performance skills, sound engineering and dance calling, whilst also preparing for life on the road, before spending the summer playing music at venues and festivals throughout the country.
As part of our commitment to providing opportunities for everyone who is interested in folk and traditional music to take part, this year we piloted a Fèis Rois Cèilidh Trail for young adults with additional support needs. Three young adults joined us for some workshops with Sally Simpson and Catriona Hawksworth as well as joining our other Cèilidh Trail groups for some collaborative performances. These three young adults have since attended other Fèis Rois events and have developed their music and performance skills as well as building their confidence in participating in traditional music.
Any particular career highlights?
When we count 2000 as year 1, the Ceilidh Trail has been running for 24 years, so there have been many, many highlights! We had great fun performing in London during the Olympic Games in 2012 and in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail have opened the Grassroots Stage every Saturday of the Tartan Heart Festival at Belladrum since the festival started! We also had two great summers at Festival Interceltique de Lorient in 2018 and 2019.
In the past, Ceilidh Trail participants have had the opportunity to collaborate with musicians from Australia, Canada, England and Wales who come on exchanges with Fèis Rois during the summer. This year, Fèis Rois welcomed Chloe Mulhall from Cambridge Folk Festival and Caleb Anderson from the National Celtic Festival in Australia onto the Cèilidh Trail. Performing at Cambridge Folk Festival and Sidmouth Folk Festival has come an annual highlight for Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail musicians.
This year, a real highlight was our Ceilidh Trail finale concert in Eden Court Theatre in Inverness in August 2023.
2020 marked the 21st anniversary the Ceilidh Trail and despite not being able to mark the occasion in the usual style with a summer of musical performances, Fèis Rois released a double album featuring music from former Ceilidh Trail participants, including Mairearad Green, Kim Carnie, Ali Levack, Rachel Newton, Brìghde Chaimbeul, Sally Simpson, Josie Duncan and Innes White. You can find it here: https://feisrois.bandcamp.com/
Fèis Rois was set for a fantastic summer of concerts and cèilidhs throughout Scotland, England, France and Australia to mark the milestone, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 programme had to be cancelled. Although not able to have musicians out on the road, Fèis Rois was delighted to host a special online concert showcasing some of the 150+ alumni of this project. You can still view this here:
What are your plans for the future?
As well as being a fantastic professional development opportunity for young musicians, the Cèilidh Trail is also a hugely important cultural initiative, introducing our traditional music, language and culture to visitors where they might not normally expect to hear it and in 2024 we will continue to bring music to audiences throughout Scotland. Sign up to our mailing list at www.feisrois.org to be the first to hear about our 2024 dates!
The Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail Social Media
The 2023 MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards are on the 2nd December 2023! You will be able to watch it live in person (buy a ticket here),Watch it live in the UK at 9pm (GMT) on BBC ALBA and and around the world here. Bands performing on Saturday 2nd December include Peatbog Faeries, Mànran, Karine Polwart and Dave Milligan, Duncan Chisholm Band, Joy Dunlop Band, Aberdeen SC&T Youth and more!
If you would like to support Hands Up for Trad in their work with Scottish trad music and musicians why not become a friend of Hands Up for Trad. In addition to our high profile events like the Scots Trad Music Awards, we also deliver a less well known, education programme for young people from 8yrs right through to young adults at the start of their careers. Read more here.