Celtic Summer School: Open learning inspired by Geddes

The Celtic Summer School, organised by TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and held at the Scottish Storytelling Centre from Friday 1 August to Friday 8 August, promises a unique, educational experience of all things Scottish.

The inspiration for the week-long programme, featuring seven Overview sessions and nine Exploration sessions, is taken from the open learning spirit of Patrick Geddes’ pioneering summer meetings.

Celtic School Week Pass

Geddes pioneered the conservation and development of Old Town communities and was a moving force behind a Scottish renaissance, advocating a Celtic Revival in Scotland that was profoundly international in outlook. Geddes’ achieved so much because of his ability to think always from the perspective of the culture of which he was part, utilising the relevance both historically and with respect to the cultural benefits for today’s Scotland, and the Celtic Summer School does just that, as Donald Smith, Development Director at TRACS states:
Whether you’re living in Scotland and want to find out more, or you’re a visitor, the Celtic Summer School takes you into the heart of what makes Scotland tick. It will explore what “celtic” means and how it touches every aspect of Scotland, helping us pull together very different aspects of our culture. That is what TRACS has been set up to do.

Erin FarleyAnd community ethnologist Erin Farley, who will share fascinating insights into , states:
Patrick Geddes has only recently come to my attention, but the more I hear about him, the more I believe there is so much in his ethos and beliefs on learning and nature that we can benefit from today. I’m thrilled to see his legacy inspiring events and activities, and very excited to have the chance to be part of this.

10 academics and performers will guide participants through the literature, languages, history, music, art and politics of Scotland with plenty of opportunities for input and discussion on the selection of fascinating topics being offered.

Dr Fred Freeman, who leads a session exploring rather than as the Nation’s poet, states:
Looking at the phenomenon of the city in history, Lewis Mumford, taking his lead directly from Patrick Geddes, argued cogently that man, in all that they say and do, cannot help but be symbolic.  Scotland is, again, at a critical juncture in its history, and it is clear that forums like the Celtic Summer School emerge where we have cause to redefine who we are and, necessarily, to rediscover where we are going.  One of the joys of the summer school is experiencing tradition as a fluid process: a process of building afresh.”    

David Francis, who will share insights into states:
The Celtic Summer School is a great opportunity to get an overview of this important aspect of not only Scottish but in fact world culture, given the origins of the Celts in mainland Europe in the distant past and their movement across the world in the recent past.  And traditional music is a big part of it all.

This will be a wholly engrossing week of to uncover in-depth knowledge of some of the most fascinating parts of Scottish culture.

Overviews | Mon 1 – Thu 7 Aug | 12.30pm (50mins)

Stuart McHardyIn , Donald Smith revealshow people came to Scotland and a distinctive society evolved, exploring in what sense Scotland is a Celtic country and its meaning historically, culturally and linguistically.  He then reflects on Scotland’s love of words and the interweaving streams of English, Scots and Gaelic in . With examples fromrural and urban locations in poetry and prose, get to grips with Scotland’s psyche and identity through its rich history of writings.

Scotland is over five thousand years old and many of themythologies and customs are intrinsically connected to the landscape and seasons. A lifetime of studying all aspects of Scotland’s cultures has led Stuart McHardy to a vision of who we are and where we come from that will entrance and inspire in . Scotland’s landscape holds many secrets. The oral traditions of our ancestors can be used to open many of them and even today our landscape is rich in remnants of how our predecessors thought and believed. Join Stuart McHardy on a journey of discovery rooted in the distant past through myth and legend, place names and the landscape itself, to help us see our way clearer in the days to come.

While McHardy evidences the unparalleled connection between culture and place, Historian and Newbattle Abbey lecturer, Neil Hargraves, defines who the Celts were and why they were central to Scotland’s early story, with context offered in perspective to the wider European setting in . This event will explore who and what the ancient Celts were, and what relevance they have to modern ideas of “Celticness”. It will establish the basis for a discussion of Celtic identity and the way in which this has been developed in modern culture and politics.

Neil Hargraves, will be teaching the unit Celtic Studies: An Introduction and History of the Celts in Scotland for their forthcoming Celtic Studies programme which begins in September, and states:
I am delighted to be able to collaborate with TRACS and the Scottish Storytelling Centre for their Celtic Summer School, providing an opportunity for us to share our interest in Scotland’s diverse Celtic heritage.

ClarsachHistorical inspiration is rife within and David Francis looks at past and present traditions of musical practice and creativity in Scotland. Through the main instruments associated with Scottish music – voice, harp, pipes, accordion, violin – there will be copious musical illustrations offering contemporary contexts within which the music can be heard, as well as some stories on the musicians associated with the instruments.

As well as a distinct sound to traditional music, Scotland’s oldest indigenous language is unique and is the perfect introduction to Gaelic literature, which spans a wide range of forms taking in heroic lays, flytings, laments, work, love, praise and religious songs, tales, riddles, mouth music, prose, plays and proverbs. Coinneach Maclean will offer a brief insight to this richness and diversity. He is honoured to be taking part in the Celtic Summer School event and welcomes such a worthwhile contribution to the wider understanding of Gaelic culture.

As well as hearing Scotland through its words and music, visual imagery has had significant contribution to Scotland’s identity. In , trace how the visual arts have helped form Scotland’s sense of heritage, tradition and cultural difference with Mairi McFadyen.

Explorations | Mon 1 – Fri 8 Aug | 2.30pm (2hrs)

Scotland has a rich history of storytelling, and Donald Smith offers ahands-on, user friendly introduction to Scottish legends in with insights into the never-ending well of storymaking that continues to underpin Scotland’s arts and local culture.

Storytellers in Garden

Just as Donald has followed the path of discovering narrative, Patsy Seddon has immersed herself in Gaelic and Scots Song, learning clàrsach and fiddle on the way. In this workshop she will explore this wealth of song and how a nation’s song store reflects on images of national identity, with participants invited to sing along.

Continuing Stuart McHardy’s overview into beliefs, Erin Farley delves deeper with Ritual, Drama and Religion offering an exploration into how these three interlinked aspects of culture relate to one another in Scotland, how they were practiced in the past and how they impact our lives today.

Examples of ritual and The Burrymantradition including the seasonal folk play Galoshins, which has been recently revived in a number of forms, and the Burryman tradition of South Queensferry, which has been quietly continuing and developing over five centuries, will be investigated, as well as drawing parallels from other Celtic traditions and further afield. Participants who have their own experiences and thoughts about tradition will be welcome to offer up their insights to the discussion.

From traditions to politics, historian Neil Hargraves is the guide through some troubled but fascinating waters as he explores the relationship between Celtic culture and modern politics, offering some essential and yet surprising perspectives on nation building, past and present. In the year that Cornwall has been recognised as a nation and with Scotland’s vote on Independence imminent, the has never been so apt.

From politics to poetry with David Campbell who highlights the joy and effectiveness of speaking aloud Scotland’s poetic heritage in . From the time of the great Scottish Bards through to the present day, Scottish poetry has expressed its power and passion in the spoken word and David will ensure participants find confidence in their own voices to make the words live in the air as he journeys through notable poets and plays with live sound.

Due to its success during TradFest, there will be another chance to partake in the Gaelic Literary Tour (Cuairt Litreachas Gàidhlig), supported by Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust. This walking tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town introduces the riches of Gaelic poetry and the locations associated with Gaelic literature, and is accessible for those who are interested but with little or no Gaelic.

Patrick Geddes BustIn Robert Burns and the National Music, Dr Fred Freeman considers a lesser known Robert Burns: the songwriter rather than the “poet”; the folk musician and man of the counter-Enlightenment, drawing upon traditional dance/instrumental forms (jigs, slip jigs, reels and more), and arguing with the most eminent classical composers of his day, such as  established European figures like Pleyel. This is a great opportunity to hear and study numerous musical examples from Freeman’s ground-breaking Complete Songs Of Robert Burns (12 vols, Linn Records).

Following her look at Seeing Scotland, Mairi McFadyen will take you on A Patrick Geddes Journey connecting with culture as a dynamic, evolving and vital expression of life energy, inspired by Geddes’ skill to combine Celtic tradition and innovation, art and science, architecture and environment allowing you to uncover Geddes’ legacy and its contemporary potential.

The Celtic Summer School closes with a journey to Newbattle Abbey College. Spirit of Place: Newbattle Journey will depart from the Scottish Storytelling Centre and you will uncover the history of the peaceful location – originally chosen by Cistercian Monks – with environmental story walks, as well as an introduction to Newbattle’s new Celtic Studies programme. (Please note – this event is not included in the Week Pass option)

View all Celtic Summer Sessions