Huge Manx Presence at Lorient, but It Wasn’t Always So

NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE

A media release has been sent to us by Culture Vannin setting out what seems to be the largest contribution to the Lorient Festival by a Manx contingent since Manx musicians and dancers started to attend.

The Isle of Man and Cornwall join forces for major presentation in Brittany this Augus (Culture Vannin)

Uniquely this year sees a collaborative arrangement between Mann and Kernow.

Over the years a comparatively modest cultural contribution from Mann, which is the smallest Celtic country, has expanded and despite a hiccup some years ago when the Festival had to cut back on funding it looks as if the growth and significance of what is one of the most important gatherings from an Inter-Celtic perspective is secure.

Anyone from the League who has not been to the Festival should consider a visit. I (DOI) have been on several occasions, generally when it coincided with Celtic League AGMs, and the atmosphere was most invigorating (especially after days spent ruminated on the politico-cultural dynamic of the Celtic league).

The Culture Vannin press release also sets out how the contribution of Mann has expanded in that Arts and indeed a general marketing presentation of the Celtic countries which have been included in recent years are now more central to the Manx Festival contribution.

It’s a far cry from the early days of the Manx participation in the Festival so I thought I would briefly research its background.

I may be wrong but I think the first Manx contributor at the festival was Charles Guard (in the early 1970s). Charles Guard is well known for his Manx (and Celtic) harp music and also for many years was an integral part of the current affairs news team at Manx Radio.

The first group to attend appears to have been put together by Mona Douglas in 1976 with the help of Colin Jerry who thereafter organised an expanding presence at the following festivals for many, many years. Has Colin’s contribution to this and Manx Music generally – particularly the production of a generation of Manx music books been properly recognised? I think not! (He does get a brief mention on the Culture Vannin web site).

No doubt some ‘sourpusses’ will carp in these times of austerity if this years delegation go by direct air flight. However, when you recall that the first Manx Party (Mona, Anne Kissack, the Jerry family – the younger of whom having been hastily schooled in Manx dancing) went via Dublin linking up with the Irish contingent down to Rosslare 22 hour boat journey to Roscoff. Then a 12 hour coach journey from Roscoff to Lorient you can see why it makes sense to ‘go direct’! One participant described the first journey as ‘horrific’!

Having said that I’m told the redoubtable Mona Douglas had the party performing in Dublin (just to keep their hand – or step – in on the way). A report on this ad hoc event appears on page 14 of Carn at this link:

Carn (Autumn 1976, No. 15)

In following years the main mode of transport was via a link up with a Scottish Party and coach down through England and thence cross channel. On one occasion only did the Manx contingent take a coach direct from Mann which proved to be a godsend in Brittany for getting to scattered venues.

There is a report in Carn on the 1977 festival delegation which that year numbered 18, again impromptu performances as per the first delegation seem to have been the order of the day. You can find the link here (page 16):

Carn (Autumn 1977, No. 19)

It is to be hoped that some effort will be made by Culture Vannin to put together a written and oral record of Manx participation in this and other inter-Celtic events. Sadly Colin Jerry and some of the other earlier participants are no longer with us which sort of underpins the urgency of such a project.

As a footnote: In his brief report on the 1977 festival Colin Jerry, having seen the resources available to Celtic artists and musicians in Brittany says:

“Once again we were envious of their premises as we have previously been of clubs in Wales at Easter, and wish the Manx government could be persuaded of the absolute necessity of a cultural centre in Mann”.

Coincidentally a year earlier after returning from the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ireland and having stayed for several nights at the Culturlann at Monkstown, Dublin , I wrote in Carn (page 19):

Carn (Winter 1976/7, No. 16)

“Surely the time is ripe for the establishment of a CULTURAL CENTRE within Mann…a place where visitors could go and see that Manks life still presents a creative side”.

Related links:

Mona Douglas

Colin Jerry

Charles Guard

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League

18/06/15

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)

ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.

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