Dr Frances Wilkins

Project Title: Seinn Spioradail air a’ Ghàidhealtachd an Iar agus anns na h-Eileanan Siar  / Spiritual Singing in the West Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland

I received a Research Incentive Grant in 2019 to kick-start a project which explored sacred and spiritual singing practices in the West Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland including the repertoires, performance contexts, and significance to singers in the region today. The funding enabled me to travel throughout the region interviewing and recording singers and musical events. Most of the singing I recorded has been in the Gaelic language, and much of the repertoire is in danger of disappearing from everyday life. Because of this very real concern for its ongoing practice, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to meet the singers and document the tradition while it is still intact and a living part of the communities.

The research was badly impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic, and while I had been planning to complete all fieldwork for the project by the end of 2020, this ground to a halt in March 2020 and didn’t really get going again until March 2022. However, I was able to do some interviewing, mostly online via Zoom, between 2020-2022 and some of my funds were re-purposed to enable me to receive some invaluable one-one-one online Gaelic tuition, specifically focussing on translating and analysing some of the material which I had collected. Thanks to an extension on the grant, I was also able to conduct most of the rest of the in-person fieldwork in early 2022.

In 2021 I applied for and was successful in securing a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship to complete the project. This is enabling me to complete my fieldwork and write up my research in the form of journal articles, CD and book publication, a public exhibition and website. The entire project is due to be completed in late 2023.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Music, Drama and Performing Arts

University: University of Aberdeen

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