The 2023 edition of The Royal National Mòd draws to a triumphant close today, with musical voices from across the country joining together in Paisley, marking the end of the spectacular nine day event.
This morning’s Massed Choirs performance saw choirs who have competed across this week gather to sing in joyful unison outside Paisley Town Hall, along with some members of Renfrewshire Schools Pipe Band. The Mòd flag was then handed over to Oban, who will host the 2024 edition of the beloved festival. The Argyll town is known as the “home of the Mòd”, with the festival founded there in 1891, some 132 years ago.
Spanning over 20 venues throughout the Renfrewshire town from 13-21 October, Scotland’s premier celebration of Gaelic language, sports, art, and culture saw approximately 8,000 visitors gather in Paisley, and is estimated that it will have generated an impressive excess of £2 million for the local economy.
Attendees from Harris to New Zealand descended on the town to watch as the 2,000 participants competed in over 200 competitions.
Yesterday saw an impressive round of Area Choir Competitions hosted at Paisley Town Hall and Paisley Abbey. The incredibly talented Oban Gaelic Choir took home the Lovat and Tullibardine Shield at their third consecutive Mòd.
It was an emotional Black Isle Gaelic Choir who won the Margrat Duncan Memorial Trophy for the second year running. Ahead of the afternoon’s competitions, a minute’s silence was held in memory of their late conductor and beloved Mòd community member, Kirsteen Maclennan (nèe Menzies) and after the competition closed, a men’s massed choir moved the audience at Paisley Town Hall when they performed Kirsteen’s arrangement of An Eala Bhàn (The White Swan).
Kerrie Kennedy, conductor of Black Isle Gaelic Choir, said: “It was one of Kirsteen’s last wishes for us to perform today and she asked me to step in if she couldn’t do it, so I did. It doesn’t seem real and to receive the baton, well that’s for her.
“The sound the choir made today was just incredible, I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I just couldn’t have asked any more of them today. They gave it everything, absolutely everything. Kirsteen arranged our own choice song, it was her last gift to the choir so it was lovely to bring that in and the choir did it justice. I think Kirsteen would have been very, very happy with what we did today. She was here, and so was her Dad.”
Sileas Sinclair, conductor of Oban Gaelic Choir, said: “I feel speechless. We weren’t expecting the win tonight. We hoped and we worked very hard for it, and it felt good on the stage, but the standard of all the choirs today was just so high. We prepare for the Mòd for most of the year, so much time and effort goes into it, and I could not be more proud of the choir, they’ve worked so, so hard.”
The winner of the Mòd’s Highland Art Prize was also revealed yesterday afternoon at The Briggait Hall in Glasgow. David Greenall of An Lanntair took the top prize with his painting entitled Crofts at South Dell. His painting was selected from a shortlist of 10 pieces chosen by renowned Lewis artist and art teacher Ishbel Murray. As the winner, David will have the opportunity to present his work in an exhibition at The Briggait next year, courtesy of Wasps.
Last night saw an incredible performance from d/Deaf singer Evie Waddell, who delighted crowds at Paisley Town Hall. The self-directed show, entitled Fàilte Gu BSL (Welcome to BSL), bridged linguistic gaps through movement, dance and signed songs, captivating viewers and celebrating the relationship between Gaelic and BSL.
Across the past week, the festival has showcased a diverse programme of exciting live concerts and fringe events, with highlights including the Our Language Our Music Concert, which showcased the best of traditional music and Gaelic culture with talent from Renfrewshire and beyond, The Festival Club, a new edition to this year’s programme, which featured a variety of pop-up live music sessions and entertainment each day of the festival, from the likes of The Canny Band and 2023 SAY Award Shortlist artist Brìghde Chaimbeul and Battle of the Bands, which saw some of the most exciting emerging talent on the Gaelic music scene compete for a coveted prize of studio time at JJ Recording Studios in Paisley.
Tonight, the Mòd 2023 will come to a triumphant close with a spectacular sold out concert from folk-electronica powerhouse Niteworks, in partnership with The Reeling. The Isle of Skye natives are set to take their electrifying mix of Gaelic, Scots and English folk songs infused with cinematic electronica to Paisley Town Hall, bringing Mòd Paisley to a fitting close. Tonight’s closing concert will also mark the very first time Niteworks, SAY Award nominees and one of the world’s biggest Gaelic bands, have played to audiences in Paisley.
Ruairidh Graham of Niteworks said: “It’s a real privilege to be closing this year’s Royal National Mòd in Paisley. You can’t really grow up within Gaelic culture and not have had some connection to the Mòd, and for it have influenced you in some form or another. It’s great to see how it has been evolving in recent years with a host of fringe activities that are pulling in new audiences, and we are thrilled to be a part of that with this gig.”
James Graham, Chief Executive Officer of An Comunn Gàidhealach, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the success of this year’s Mòd in Paisley. The vibrant atmosphere, rich displays of Gaelic language and culture, and the warm hospitality of Paisley’s community have truly made this year’s event exceptional.
“Our heartfelt thanks go out to all the dedicated attendees and volunteers who have contributed to this Mòd’s triumph. A special thanks must also go out to Renfrewshire Council, who have been a huge support to us this year. We must also give special mention to our participants and competitors, without whom the Mòd could not exist. Well done to everyone who has taken part this year; the standard has been incredibly high and a privilege to see.
“We are proud to have brought our Gaelic festival of culture and song back to Paisley after a decade, and are looking forward to tonight’s performance from Niteworks. Their fusion of tradition and innovation is a perfect fit for the festival, demonstrating the strength and diversity of Gaelic culture, and is sure to end proceedings on a high.
“We now look forward to Oban next year, when we will return to the home of the Mòd! We hope the festival will bring a boost in culture and tourism to the town and I’m sure attendees will enjoy the beautiful scenery and warm west coast hospitality that Oban has to offer.”
Renfrewshire Provost, Lorraine Cameron, said: “It’s been a real privilege to welcome the Royal National Mòd back to Paisley this year to celebrate the amazing Gaelic language, music and culture. It was wonderful to see the town so full of energy with thousands of people looking to experience everything the Mòd has to offer. The jam-packed festival programme had something for everyone whether you were a veteran of the Mòd or had never experienced it before.
“I was particularly proud to see the whole community get involved from our local business owners learning Gaelic phrases to welcome people, our school pupils participating in shinty taster sessions and the fantastic volunteers who signed up to support the festival and give visitors a proper Paisley welcome. The event has been a great success for the town in terms of showcasing our fantastic venues, including our newly refurbished Paisley Town Hall, and the warm welcome visitors to the area can expect when they come to Renfrewshire.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: “The Massed Choirs once again provided a stunning finale to this year’s Royal National Mòd. Paisley provided the perfect stage for this celebration of the Gaelic language and culture. Well done to everyone who took part in the competitive elements of the event and huge congratulations to all the winners. Events play an important role in our communities by offering the chance for everyone to connect, enjoy and share memorable experiences. With visitors from around the world, this uniquely Scottish event has certainly provided memories for all who have attended.”
Ealasaid MacDonald, Ceannard (CEO), Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the end of the Mòd already, but I don’t think there could have been a better representation of the Gaelic language, Gaelic culture, and the Gaels than what we’ve seen over the last 12 days. I would like to thank An Comunn Gàidhealach for all of their hard work organising another successful Mòd, and the people in Paisley for being such welcoming hosts.”
Donald MacLean, Convener of the Oban Mòd Local Organising Committee said: “We are absolutely delighted to have the Mòd come back to Oban. The very first Mòd was in Oban, according to records, so in some ways it feels like it’s coming home. We want to get the whole town involved and to see Oban come alive for the nine days of the event. The Mòd 2024 will be for visitors, for competitors and particularly, for the people of Oban and Argyll. Gaelic is a really important part of our culture and what we would really like to see after the Mòd has left, is that the level of Gaelic in the area will have risen. We hope the event will have a meaningful legacy and value for locals.”
The Royal National Mòd is supported by EventScotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Renfrewshire Council, EventScotland, The Scottish Government, HIE, Creative Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne, BBC ALBA, The Reeling and SQA.
The Royal National Mòd will return to Oban next year, taking place between 11-19 October 2024.