Along with recent initiatives to redevelop the Gaelic language there have also been efforts made to revive Scotland’s ceilidh culture. As Gaelic-speaking began to diminish in certain areas so too did the music and traditions of the inhabitants. Today, more people seem to have a renewed interest in Scotland’s ceilidh culture and old forms of entertainment and social interaction seem to be making a comeback.
Ceilidh culture doesn’t just refer to traditional set dancing and bag-pipe playing but refers to the festival culture of the entire Gaelic community. This extends to Gaelic speakers in Ireland and indeed many of the successful initiatives in the revival of Celtic music have come about through joint ventures of Scottish and Irish bodies. In May 2000 a Celtic music festival was organised in Mullach Bán in South Armagh. The event spanned over two days and featured singers from Ireland and Scotland singing in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Another festival which takes place on an annual basis in Glasgow is Celtic Connections. It began in January 1994 and featured artists like Dougie McLean, Altan, Finbar Furey, Sharon Shannon- all big names in traditional music. The festival celebrates the Celtic culture of both Ireland and Scotland and attracts huge audiences every winter with its range of performances.
Ceilidh culture is also being revived at grassroots level. In Edinburgh there is a weekly Ceilidh Club hosted in a venue called The Bongo Club. The event is so popular that people start queuing outside the door well over an hour before they start selling tickets so as not to miss out! The ceilidhs are held on a Tuesday evening and each week a different band provides the music for the dancing. The leader of the band goes through each of the dances before the music starts, explaining the steps. This means that there is usually a good mix of regular ceilidh-goers and complete beginners at the event. The Ceilidh Club attracts a range of people from different nationalities and of different ages ranging from 18 to 90! Ceilidh dancing is not just gaining popularity in the capital. Gaelic singer Joy Dunlop thinks ceilidh culture is making a comeback in Scotland, particularly with the younger generation.
“I think it’s becoming more popular now because I know when I was younger there weren’t very many young people there. It was more an older generational thing. But I see now that younger folk are getting really into ceilidh dancing. I think it’s turning and people are starting to appreciate and see the fun side of it”.