Ambitious plans to significantly boost the delivery of adventurous activities for the Gaelic-speaking market have been announced today (Wednesday 14th October) by Gaelic development company, Comunn na Gàidhlig (CnaG).
‘Spòrs Gàidhlig’, as the new organisation will be called, will create opportunities for young people to use Gaelic in a fun and supportive setting through a range of activities, events and programmes. The new organisation represents a significant opportunity to schools, allowing them to access a wider and more comprehensive range of Gaelic medium programmes.
If successful, the proposals would see the creation of a team of trained staff able to deliver a range of activities to young people entirely through the medium of Gaelic. As part of the same programme, CnaG have also announced a ‘crowdfunding’ appeal to help them purchase a minibus to support their growing programme of youth activities.
According to CnaG, despite efforts in the past to address the issue, there are very, very few qualified outdoor instructors able to deliver activities directly in the Gaelic language. This means that when young people are participating in adventurous activities, they are almost always delivered in English. The danger is that young people can then associate ‘cool’ and exciting activities with English – a real detriment to their Gaelic learning and confidence.
The new proposals have been carefully developed over the last year. A feasibility study (See “notes to editors”) carried out by independent consultants came to the strong conclusion that such a provision was viable and was needed to support overall developments in Gaelic medium education. An eventual aim to have a Gaelic language “outdoor centre” was also seen as viable, but early emphasis had to be focussed on staff training and development.
Among the study’s other conclusions were:
·         The training of Gaelic-speaking instructors is a key element in the vision of providing outdoor learning opportunities in Gaelic;
·         A Gaelic language and outdoor learning centre could become an effective means of contributing to the outcomes as set out in the National Plan for Gaelic;
·         Community involvement and a sense of ownership by the wider Gaelic community will be very important in the success of a CnaG Gaelic language and outdoor learning centre.
Comunn na Gàidhlig themselves already deliver a wide range of activities for young Gaelic speakers. These include very popular summer ‘Sradagan’ camps for 8-12 year olds, and recently introduced initiatives such as ski-camps and the delivery of the John Muir Award in a number of areas. They say the growth in demand (see “notes to editors”) for these activities, and the growth in the number of pupils following GME, led them to the conclusion that a more focussed and specialised provision was needed.
CnaG chief executive Donald MacNeill said: “We are very grateful for the support of our funders, particularly Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in allowing us to do what we currently do. Our aspiration is very much that this new venture – the delivery of an even greater range of activities and outdoor learning under the “Spòrs Gàidhlig” banner – would be commercial and self-sustaining after the initial training and development phase.”
The costs of the training and early development phases of these proposals is estimated to be in the region of £430,000. While CnaG does have some of its own resources to invest in the plan, it will depend on external funding to see it progress. Project Manager Donald Morris said: “Although the project is still at an early stage, we have already approached prospective funders including LEADER, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Skills Development Scotland, and Sport Scotland. Along with our own investment, we are optimistic that we can secure sufficient support to allow us to proceed.
“If that happens, then the first step would be to recruit up to 6 Gaelic speakers for an initial 10 week ‘taster’ course, from this we’d hope to see 4 of these people continue into a year-long training programme, focussed on giving them the ‘outdoor education’ qualifications they would need, but also adding in a strong element on Gaelic terminology as well as exploring its place and significance in the outdoor environment.”
While the training programme was underway marketing efforts would be strengthened, and the plan would then be to recruit two of the successful trainees into the new company. Depending on demand, freelance work would be offered to the other two.
It is currently planned that the ‘taster’ course, and first year of the training programme will be undertaken in association with the Lagganlia Outdoor Centre, near Kincraig.
Donald MacNeill again: “We are wholly convinced of the need for such an enhanced provision, and just as convinced that this can be an innovative and successful venture. Our ultimate objective would still be to see a fully-fledged Gaelic language “outdoor centre” providing opportunities for young Gaels to get right into a range of activities and challenges, all through the medium of Gaelic, and to see an enthusiastic team of instructors as role models, not to mention future employment opportunities.”
In a parallel development CnaG have also launched a ‘crowdfunding’ appeal with a target of £10,000 to help them buy a minibus. This would be used to support existing activities, as well as being available for ‘Spòrs Gàidhlig’ activities in due course.
Project Manager Donald Morris said: “Because CnaG offers its activities to groups of youngsters coming from across Scotland, we often have to face transport challenges. Dealing with these takes a great deal of time and effort, which would be much better spent focussing on improving our activity programme. We believe a minibus would help us deliver our current programme more efficiently and cost-effectively.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The feasibility study was carried out for CnaG by ‘Big Pond Scotland’ with the final report being delivered in May 2014. The study cost £25,000. This was funded with support from the National Lottery’s ‘Investing in Ideas’ and ‘Awards for All’ schemes, Scottish Natural Heritage and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
2. CnaG’s programme of youth activities has expended significantly in recent years:
a)  There used to be 1 summer ‘Sradagan’ camps for 8-12 year olds, there are now two.
b)  The first ski-trip was offered in 2013 with 16 participants; last year there were two trips with a total of 36 participants; and in 2015 there was one camp with 44 participants.
c)  The John Muir Award began in 2012 with 20 participants; by 2015 this had grown to 60 participants, 50 of whom attended a residential event in Tomintoul
d)   The ‘city trips’ – a new initiative in 2012 with 10 participants has expanded to 30.
There is additional demand for all of these activities. The restricting factor is CnaG’s own capacity to accommodate greater numbers while maintaining appropriate leader:participant ratios.