The Shining Feis

The Feis movement was founded in the early eighties in response to a resurgence of interest in traditional music.  At that time I worked as a freelance photographer and film maker in the Highlands and Islands. Then it was impossible not to be drawn to what was happening at the various Feisean that were springing up all over Scotland.

Fiddle classes at Feis Bharraigh

Fiddle classes at Feis Bharraigh

The first Feis I went to was in Barra in the summer of 1988.  As I wandered from class to class in Castlebay school, it was clear that there was something fundamental happening to traditional music. Fiddles screeched, drums beat, children danced – an energy I’d never witnessed before was being unleashed.

Dansers at Feis Bharraigh

Dancers at Feis Bharraigh

It wasn’t just at the children’s Feis, but all around, amongst the tutors and those attending adult Feisean and events: there was a real feeling of optimism.

Clarsach classes at Feis Rois

Clarsach classes at Feis Rois

The following summer, I went to Feis Rois in Ullapool. Same again, kids running towards school, not away from it; eager, enthusiastic and enjoying every moment of learning.

Feis Rois organisers and tutors

Feis Rois organisers and tutors - Bryan Beattie far left, Cathy Ann MacPhee centre, Lauren MacColl right and Sim Mackenzie far right

Over the years since then, a hard core of dedicated enthusiasts from all walks of life around Scotland have ensured that many of the wee ones of the Feis movement have become the big names of the traditional music scene in Scotland and much further afield. The Feis movement is a shining example of people working togther in communities to produce something far larger than the sum of the parts.


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