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Archive 2
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Twentieth Century Celts
James Skinner wonders why some of our Celts are missing.

The Celts have meandered across Europe for centuries. Over the ages they have mingled with Britons and Gauls, from the Black Sea to the north of Scotland. They were known as warriors and poets, farmers and musicians. Not one nation, more a commonwealth of people, yet always united through cultural bonds. From fiddles to bagpipes, fairies to lepricorns - Celts can be identified across the globe. Although cautious, aristocratic and proud, many have, in recent years, migrated and triumphed in many parts of the world. New York Irish and Patagonian Welsh, to name but a few, have sown the seeds of their traditions. This past week, in Truro, Cornwall, we tasted a sample of this modern Celtic power.

The 22nd Celtic Film and Television Festival took place here, between the 28th and 31st of March. It is the second time it has been held here in Cornwall. The main purpose of the Festival is to provide a forum for presenting and expanding the Celtic culture by means of exposure through the powerful tools of the media.

Celtic professionals from film, television and radio in every field from producers to writers, editors to graphic designers, were here for four days to offer their best. Many projects and talented works compete for the awards. This year's participants include entries from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall.

Spohie Crabb, Marketing and Development executive of the Festival team, gave me an overall insight into the objectives and future of the Festival. “It is primarily an industry event that has grown over the years. Most professionals in the media come together to discuss business and make new contacts. The aim is to get people to work together and continue to promote our culture.”

Apart from the conferences and seminars, there are several screenings of new productions. They centre around the famous Gold Torc award for the best production of the year. There are also awards for best screen production in a Celtic language as well as one for the best first time director. To cover the remaining presentations, several Bronze Torc awards are handed out to the best productions in each sub category of screen and radio.

I picked up on the issue of Celtic languages and asked Sophie to elaborate.

“Languages are an important part of the Festival. A huge majority of the people here today are minority language producers and a third of the work has to be in one of those languages. Presentations by the host country, in this case Cornwall, can be made in their own language,” French and English are the prevalent languages and in order for everyone to enjoy the productions subtitles are provided. The aim is to get as many people to participate as possible.

I mentioned Galicia, northwest Spain, as a predominantly Celtic area. How come they were not represented ?

“As far as Galicia is concerned, we would need to explore it further for next year’s festival. My suggestion would be to discuss it with our chief executive in the near future. It would also be helpful if more information on Galicia could be presented to the organisers.” I said that I would look into the matter on their behalf.

The Festival receives part of its funding from the European Union. Being a media event it also receives funds from the various television organisations of each country. The Executive and Management committees’ next approach is to expand overseas and broaden the base of the Festival. An ambitious future program is to introduce a profile of the event in North America.

From a personal view point, I could not help but favour one event that picked up a Festival bronze Torc award. It was the Celtic Music presentation of Bruce MacGregor: ‘James Scott Skinner: The Strathspey King 1843-1927’. Being a descendant of this famous musician from Scotland I had to contact the winners.

In the beautiful gardens of the Alverton hotel, headquarters of the Festival, we talked about the Festival, its merits and its ambitions but Bruce was still ecstatic over his award. He spoke to me about the various anecdotes of this incredible person who left a legacy of music played the world over.

Scott Skinner was born in Deeside and came from a farming family. Although he suffered not only from poor health and personal misfortune which included destitution and homelessness, he nevertheless became a musical genius, known as the world famous Strathspey King.

Although Skinner was a fiddler, many of his scores have been adapted for other instruments. David Russell, a Scot who resides in Galicia, is a well-known international classic guitarist. He has recently cut a CD of Celtic ballads which include two scores from Scott Skinner. Yet another example of Celtic versatility.

I departed from the Alverton Hotel leaving behind a conglomeration of artists and producers. During the last minute frenzies of the event, many were still gloating over their awards whilst others were still busy touting for business. I could sense, however, that most had closed the chapter for this year and were now setting their sights on the next venue of the Festival, which will be in Brittany in 2002.

© James Skinner 2001

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