Centenary Centre in Peel to Host Two-Day World Music Festival

The Centenary Centre has earned a well deserved reputation for providing countless shows of top-class entertainment since it first re-opened the doors of the old church hall built in 1877, but this year the venue will play host to a special two-day festival. Organised in association with the One World Centre and Manx Radio, this will be a unique opportunity to enjoy several bands bringing a rich, global rhythm to the Isle of Man.

Held as part of the ongoing Year of Our Island initiative, the Centenary Centre will open its doors to the West African sound of Baka Beyond and the Latin/Bhangra of the Angel Brothers, both returning to the venue after a few years absence. They will be joined by the Soothsayers (Afro dub reggae), Sheelanagig (Balkan fun and grooves), The Vera van Heeringen Trio (Americana) and the Island’s very own Clash Vooar (Manx Gaelic/Jazz and folk roots grooves). Dancing at both events wholeheartedly encouraged!

A free event has also been organised, noon – 5.00pm, within the grounds of Peel Cathedral on Saturday 8th September, with a plethora of events suitable for the whole family. This includes live music, dance displays on the newly completed Labyrinth, food samples from countries around the world and children’s activities; together with a free belly dance workshop and a free African singing workshop. If wet all outdoor events will be transferred into the cathedral.

Meanwhile representatives of the various communities living on the Island will also be on hand to demonstrate aspects of their own home culture.

Tickets for both concerts (7th and 8th September) are available now, priced at £25 each, from Celtic Gold, Peter Norris Music, Corlett’s Jewellers, ShaktiMan, Thompson Travel or direct from http://www.etickets.im/cc. Early bird combined tickets for both concerts priced at £45 also available online now.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018




Manx Musicians Bring Local Colour to Breton Festival

If you’re looking for a vibrant, colourful festival which brings together our friends and neighbours from the Celtic nations, there’s nothing better than the long-running Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival in Brittany, now in its forty eighth year and going from strength to strength.

Following city centre construction work, many of the festival venues have been modified, with new space made available for several pavilions and a layout for a Celtic artwork exhibition in the local square.

The Breizh Stade is now home to the Village Celte des terres, where visitors to the festival can enjoy snacks and refreshments; specialising in meat and cold cuts. For the past four years the Breizh Stade has become a focal point for the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival, hosting Breton sports and games, musical entertainment with cercles and bagadoù, and the second category National Bagadoù Championships, as well as the pipe bands and drumming championships.

With the installation of the Village Celte within the stadium, everyone benefits from a growing entertainment and activities sector, drawing crowds for a variety of performances from brass bands, Bagadig groups, Plijadur du Bagad and even board games.

One of the highlights of the festival is the extensive Grand Parade, drawing together three thousand five hundred musicians, pipe bands, bagadaù, cercles and bandas de gaitas in traditional dress to parade through the crowded streets of Lorient. Featuring two hundred concerts and performances, twelve stages and four thousand five hundred artists, this annual festival attracts well in excess of seven hundred and fifty thousand festival-goers.

Recognised as one of Europe’s largest festivals, the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival is a fantastic inter-cultural exchange which penetrates both borders and identities – bringing together those from the Celtic Diaspora.

Although every Celtic nation is represented at the event, this year the focus will be trained upon Wales, recognised culturally for its musical heritage, which flourishes through its choirs and the triple harp, as well as traditional music, alternative folk and a burgeoning pop/rock scene. It’s little wonder that it earned the title of The Land of Song during the nineteenth century.

Many Welsh performers have visited the Isle of Man to entertain here, with a number of Manx groups reciprocating with their own musicians, dancers and singers.

But a local contingent will also be heading towards Brittany in order to fly the Manx flag, which includes The Lawrences, a highly talented trio of musical siblings, who between them play whistle, cello, fiddle, keyboard and guitar. They will be joined by A’Nish, featuring Ruth Keggin and dancers Gráinne Joughin and Ali Carroon. Peter Young’s hard-working team of volunteers will also include Island singer/songwriter Matt Kelly and musician Caitlin Bennett, who will also be squeezing in some performances at the Manx pavilion.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Keep an Eye on David Swinton’s New Exhibition at The Hodgson Loom Gallery in Laxey

The current exhibition at the Hodgson Loom Gallery, situated within the Laxey Woollen Mill, features some unusual work this summer entitled The Eyes of the House, by former local artist David Swinton.

He has exhibited at the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, the Laing and the Royal Watercolour Society as well as a number of solo presentations in both the UK and the Isle of Man.

During the 1990s alone, David produced ten exhibitions which reflected his talent for painting, calligraphy, illumination, hand-writing and associated arts, which toured museums and art galleries throughout Britain – with the assistance of the Arts Council Touring Exhibitions Service.

A former school teacher at Ballakermeen High School, David also received a number of commissions, which include the falcon plaque in the Isle of Man Bank, a svelte, bronze within the Villa Marina and several sets of stamps for Isle of Man Stamps and Coins. More recently his illuminated map of Kerrowgarrow Farm was officially handed into the care of Manx National Heritage, to be publicly displayed in the near future.

His work follows that of other family members, who clearly influenced David; more particularly his grandfather, Dan Watson, who worked with lino blocks, engraved wood and in water-colour, and his mother, Gabrielle Swinton, a professional, botanical artist who paid much attention to detail.

Although he usually paints in a broader fashion, David soon realised that the works currently displayed at the Hodgson Loom Gallery demanded extra detail, so as to express their full character. He worked from tonal sketches and several photos of each subject, which were based on ideas from the UK, Crete, Spain and the Isle of Man during the past eighteen years.

It was his grandfather, meanwhile, who influenced the title of his latest exhibition, and the long term visualisation of both doors and windows as ‘the eyes of the house’. David also revealed that he has enjoyed painting this body of work more than any other in recent times.

Also included with the exhibition is a panel showing the water-colour techniques David favoured for the paintings on display and a helpful list of colours from his palette.

Now retired, David has been selected as Artist in Residence for several schools within Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Norfolk during the last ten years, utilising paper sculpture, wood-carving and concrete for commissions and school workshops. A solo show of water-colours at the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery during 2016 also proved to be a best-seller.

His current exhibition at the Hodgson Loom Gallery closes on the 11th August, 2018.


Valerie Caine

© August 2018

Workshop Highlights Valuable Resource for Budding Genealogists at the Manx Museum

A recent workshop organised by the Isle of Man Family History Society in conjunction with Manx National Heritage, proved very successful with sixteen members of the organisation taking the opportunity to learn more about recent innovation within the Reading Room and Library and Archives at the Manx Museum.

Society member Sarah Christian, who also works in the Reading Room, took charge of the afternoon workshop, guiding everyone through various resources readily available, such as manuscripts, online data and printed material.

Once the presentation was completed, members split into three groups, and together with two of Sarah’s colleagues, explored different areas, including use of digital equipment and new film readers, accessible information located in the Reading Room and a fascinating tour of the Manx Museum’s archives, kept over several floors in specially controlled conditions.

The long established Reading Room at the Manx National Heritage is a veritable treasure trove for any budding genealogist, with a tantalising array of card indexes and database records, as well as diaries and memoirs prepared for the online catalogue. Photographs, prints and plans are also available together with the revealing Folk Life Survey, periodicals, pamphlets, scrapbooks and availability of deeds. The now well established iMuseum online, particularly with its remarkable, historical newspaper collection, has proved to be an invaluable resource and is freely available at the museum, or from the comfort of your home using a tiered payment system.

Additionally, it’s also possible to use Find My Past at no cost, which may reveal new lines of enquiry, or confirm previous beliefs.Sarah explained the growing resources available on the ‘Familysearch’, website including unindexed images of probate records (wills).

At the close of the session there was an opportunity to speak with staff, continue with on-going research, or take refreshment at The Bay Room Restaurant situated within the Manx Museum building.

If you would like to join the Isle of Man Family History Society please contact them at iomfhs.im.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018

Peel – a Hot Spot for Family fun this Summer!

With summer in full swing, one of the hot spots for family fun and entertainment is going to be Peel, including the town’s annual carnival, a new exhibition commemorating internment and the perennial traditional boat weekend.

The exotic Viva Brasil dancers, providing a flavour of Rio de Janeiro, will be making a welcome return to Peel Carnival after their very successful Island debut in 2016, joined this year by the Manchester based band Panfire, street performers Splat (who will also be holding a circus skills workshop) and members of the Norwich based Louise Hamilton Trust with their life-sized knitted garden in a marquee on the beach. There’s also over £1,000 to be won in competitions – including a new fancy dress class for dogs!

History buffs can also step into the Leece Museum, where there will be a free exhibition of photographs and memorabilia, about the Peveril Internment Camp, which was based at the northern end of the town during World War II. It became known as the fascist camp and was immortalised by daring escape efforts, (including a well planned tunnel on Peveril Road) and a riot within the camp itself after an aborted sea escape by three fellow internees.

But for those who like messing about in boats, the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend is a popular event in the west, where they can enjoy local hospitality. There’s a boat building competition and race down by the harbour with cash prizes available, Parade of Sail, and an art exhibition and sale of merchandise in the local Sailors’ Shelter on East Quay this weekend.

Valerie Caine

© July 2018

Centenary of the Manx General Strike Commemorated

Strike Committee

With the centenary of the Manx General Strike due to be commemorated in July, the story brings into focus some of the deprivation suffered by local people at that time and the strenuous efforts of those who formed trade unions to push for reform.

As the working class began to emerge during the nineteenth century, responsibility for the poor, sick and elderly was firmly placed within the family, with assistance from the church where necessary. But a rapid growth in population overwhelmed their work, which was later undertaken by a proliferation of what became known as ‘friendly societies’.


The first recorded attempt to form a trade union on the Isle of Man was in 1821, but it wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that serious attempts were made to organise sections of the working class into a positive force. During 1917 efforts were made to organise a union of general workers against a backdrop of an unprecedented rise in the cost of living and an undefined working week; attracting considerable support.

There was a tangible stirring of discontent with the Island’s Governor, Lord Raglan, the previous year, when he opposed the introduction of pensions for the elderly and direct taxation. This was an unpopular decision and during the Tynwald ceremony of 1916 he was confronted by placard wielding demonstrators demanding his resignation, and famously struck by a grass sod thrown by a member of the crowd.

The Island’s First Pensioners

Their anger was further fuelled by the Manx government’s refusal to implement a flour subsidy for Island bakers in parity with England. A temporary equality was agreed after protesters applied pressure, but it’s termination did little to dampen their anger. Lord Raglan decreed that a fixed price should be applied, but local bakers threatened closure, protesting that they couldn’t produce bread at this price.

This action then set in motion a series of events which ultimately brought the Isle of Man to a grinding halt.

Tynwald Protest

A strike committee was appointed with representatives from local unions, and a thousand people gathered outside government office to announce an impending strike which affected the Island 3rd – 5th July, 1918. Its success lay in skilful organisation which rapidly halted key components of daily life. Schools, shops, offices and factories were shut down and cargo workers ceased work. The strike committee did allow fishing boats to land their catch at a price fixed by them and food shops in poorer districts opened for limited hours. Tram and rail services were non-existent, and although there was a boat in the morning, it didn’t return.

The strikers were now in a commanding position, having taken the government by surprise, and those who resisted the demands of the strike committee received short shrift. A request for members of Tynwald to be allowed to travel to the annual Tynwald ceremony was put to the strike committee, but Lord Raglan postponed the event fearing disorder and demonstration. Stranded visitors also approached the Governor for assistance to travel home, including asking for a warship, but their requests met with no action.

Lord Raglan confronts crowds on Tynwald Day

The matter was finally resolved when the Governor met with the Legislative Council and it was agreed to restore the ‘ninepenny loaf’ with immediate effect. The imposition of local income tax and pensions followed.

There were repercussions for some strikers, but ultimately Island trade unions and political labour representation was strengthened.

Lord Raglan resigned his position as Governor on the 17th December, 1918, citing ill health.

Author and historian, Dr John Callow, expanded on the theme of the Manx General Strike during an absorbing lecture at the Manx Museum Lecture Theatre, where he probed deeper into the subject and emphasised the extraordinary success of the event.

A limited edition First Day Cover commemorating the centenary is available from Isle of Man Stamps and Coins at £15.

Valerie Caine

© July 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Rare Isle of Man P50 microcar sells for £49k at auction

A rare microcar manufactured in the Isle of Man in the 1960s has been sold for £49,500 at a UK auction.

The P50 three-wheeler, made in 1963 by Peel Engineering, went under the hammer at Brightwells in Leominster, Herefordshire.

Only 50 of the 49cc cars were ever made, with fewer than 30 thought to remain.

An immaculate example was sold at auction in the US in 2016 for a world record $176,000 (£120,000).

The car’s previous owner bought it for his daughter in 1978 and was used at village fetes and for her A-Level art project.

Read more here.

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Manx Celtic Festival Celebrates Fortieth Anniversary!

Yn Chruinnaght celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year and organisers are inviting everyone to come and mark the occasion at various venues in Peel, alongside a line-up of some of the best performers of Celtic music, song and dance, both at home and abroad.

The opening night at the Centenary Centre kicks off with a concert including several Manx winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. This was a pivotal moment for local, traditional musicians, whose outstanding talent was publicly acknowledged outside of the Island, leading to a greater awareness on the world stage. It will include harpist Mera Royle and Ímar featuring local boys Adam Rhodes and Tom Callister, as well as fellow band member Mohsen Amini, who was crowned Musician of the Year.

But there’s a coup here for music lovers, with confirmation that Irish music superstars Altan will close the festival with a special concert to celebrate more than thirty years in the music industry.

Sandwiched between these events will be a steady stream of top-flight performers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany, along with an extensive variety of local groups. It’s a great opportunity to experience the diversity of music that the Island has to offer, including the Manx Gaelic gypsy/jazz fusion of Clash Vooar, talented siblings The Lawrences and an inter-Celtic duo combining the talents of Ruth Keggin and Malcolm Stitt.

A packed programme of events, centred largely around Peel, also includes outdoor performances from both local and visiting groups, family-friendly ceilis (featuring Breton group Glaou and a Welsh contingent led by Ceri Evans) and a weekend gathering of free entertainment, sessions, workshops, crafts and children’s activities based at the House of Manannan. Additionally, there will be several lunchtime gigs at Noa Bakehouse in Douglas.

And there will also be two days of educational concerts in the Centenary Centre as part of their packed schedule, which it’s hoped will inspire eight hundred local school children to learn more about the Island’s traditional music scene.

Yn Chruinnaght (The Gathering), founded in Ramsey by Mona Douglas in 1978, is a volunteer led/not-for-profit organisation, which is recognised as one of the longest-running Celtic festivals in the world.

Concert tickets for the festival (11th – 15th July) are available now from Celtic Gold, the Centenary Centre, or the festival office, including a special online only all concert festival pass and a family ceili weekend pass.

Organisers of the festival would like to thank Culture Vannin, the Isle of Man Arts Council, Year of Our Island 2018, Culture Ireland, Thornton Associates, the Scott Dickinson Charitable Trust for their sponsorship and Manx National Heritage, Department of Education, Sport and Culture, Peel Town Commissioners, Department of Enterprise and Noa Bakehouse for their support.

Keep up to date with what’s happening with Yn Chruinnaght on Facebook and Twitter and buy tickets for events at www.celticgathering.im, or phone the festival office on 07624 302200

Valerie Caine

© July 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Launch of New Book of Manx Tunes for Bagpipes

This unique publication was recently launched at the Masonic Hall in Peel as part of a weekend of workshops organised by Island based Ellan Vannin Pipes and Drums.

Entertainment during the evening was provided by members of the Ellan Vannin Pipe Band, visiting piper Finlay MacDonald and Island based Scottish guitarist Malcolm Stitt.

Produced by Culture Vannin, Piob Vooar – Manx Music for Bagpipes, features thirty local songs and tunes and is seen as a useful addition to the repertoire of both solo pipers and pipe-bands.

The publication includes well-known favourites such as Ellan Vannin, Mylecharaine’s March, Eunyssagh Vona and the Manx Fishermen’s Evening Hymn; together with more recent compositions like Kinnoull and Irree ny Greiney, which is popular with Scottish pipe bands.

Well known piper Finlay MacDonald commented, “This is a truly refreshing collection of tunes adapted for pipes from the Manx tradition, with a subtle and considered touch. The airs and lullabies are so simple and beautiful, capturing the essence and beauty of our shared folk traditions whilst retaining their unique voice. There are some very spritely dance tunes and exciting melodies which give a great insight to the Manx style.”

Transcribed and arranged for Highland bagpipes by a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a highly respected piper, David Shedden, it was edited by Dr Chloë Woolley, with additional assistance of Finlay MacDonald (Head of Piping Studies at the National Centre of Piping in Glasgow), Paul Davenport and Ellan Vannin Pipes and Drums.

David Shedden has played with many of Scotland’s top bands, including Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band and the Scottish Power Pipe Band. He now works as a freelance performer and piping tutor and was a finalist in the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018.

Piob Vooar (bagpipe) is available now (priced at £10) directly from Culture Vannin, or from both book shops and museum shops across the Island.

Further information from www.manxmusic.com.

Valerie Caine

© June 2018

Judging: YOUTH AWARDS 2018

Message from Anne Minay, Douglas, Isle of Man

Once again I was very pleased to be asked to be one of the judges of the NAMA Youth Awards for 2018.  The other judges were Professor Ron Barr, Frances Hampton and Shelley Moffitt of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture and Aimee Corlett from the World Manx Association.

There was a good number of entrants across all the categories and it was a pleasure to listen to the selection of music accompanying some of the nominations and the art portraying aspects of Manx life was very varied. 

The judges receive details of each nomination in advance and all the entrants lead very busy lives, combining school work with contributing to charity and promoting the culture and life of the Isle of Man. NAMA should be very proud to be supporting these inspiring young people and encouraging their commitment to the Manx community.

After some considerable debate winners were decided and the awards will be presented in the Barrool Suite of the Legislative Buildings on Friday 6thJuly by long time supporter and friend of NAMA, Alex Downie, OBE.



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