An eight-day-long celebration of Gaelic music and culture will begin in Inverness tonight.
The Royal National Mod is Scotland’s largest Gaelic festival and will kick off with an opening ceremony on Friday evening.
The ceremony, held at Eden Court, will feature music and performances from the likes of Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band and legendary Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart.
After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, old and new fans are eager to participate in this year’s events.
They include the sharing of literature, competitions and mass choir performances, all with the intention of celebrating the language, history and future of the Gaels.
Councillor Calum Munro, chairman of Highland Council’s Gaelic committee, said: “After months of anticipation, Highland Council is delighted to finally welcome the Royal National Mod 2021 to Inverness.
“Bringing a national Mod to fruition is the culmination of months and indeed years of preparation by the local organising committee, An Comunn Gaidhealach officers, officers of the hosting local authority and the efforts of many volunteers too.”
Opening night in Inverness
Eden Court will host this year’s opening ceremony, which will also feature music from new Glasgow band Staran.
The evening is set to raise the roof, marking not only the start of this year’s Mod, but a somewhat emotional return to live music and performance too.
James Graham, chief executive officer of An Comunn Gàidhealach, is ready to see the festival through its 129th year.
He said: “It is fantastic to be able to welcome back audiences and performers alike to the Royal National Mod in Inverness.
“We have a rich 129-year history and last year’s event was sorely missed so we are delighted to see opening day upon us – it’s a landmark moment for us all.”
Along with the week’s competitions, the theatre will also host live music performances every evening throughout the event in their outdoor venue, Under Canvas.
Local Gaelic singer, Anna MacLeod, is looking forward to the events kicking off.
She said: “I’m really looking forward to the Mod. I really enjoy going to it and I’m happy that it’s back on.
“I’m not doing any competitions this year but I am singing on Saturday then my dad and I are singing at Under Canvas on Thursday night.”
New ambassador for Royal National Mod
To celebrate opening night, organisers An Comunn Gaidhealach have announced the Gaelic Ambassador of the Year.
This year’s ambassador is Agnes Rennie, who is a prominent figure in Gaelic publishing and community development.
She is best known for her role as manager of Gaelic publishing house, Acair, and was born and raised on Lewis.
Ms Rennie said: “It’s been a privilege for me to work with writers and share in the magic that leads to beautiful books, especially children’s books.
“Gaelic was my first language, and it has continued to be the thread that runs through most of the things I have done in my life. I am so pleased to have this special role for the year ahead.”
A new hybrid event
This year’s Mod will be one like no other, with the pandemic forcing the organisers to redesign the structure of the events.
There will be a combination of live and virtual events to ensure that everyone can enjoy and take part.
Shona MacLennan, ceannard of Bord na Gaidhlig, is happy that enjoyment the Gaelic language has brought people throughout the pandemic is continuing with the hybrid events.
She said: “We are delighted to support An Comunn Gaidhealach as one of our delivery partners and to see the Royal National Mod taking place in Inverness and online.
“The Mod celebrates Gaelic language and culture which, during the last 18 months, has provided many hours of online enjoyment and wellbeing support through ceilidhs, concerts, drama, and readings as well as opportunities to learn and use the language across the world.”
The full programme for this year’s Mod can be viewed here.