Fèis Rois enables people of all ages to access, participate in and enjoy the traditional arts and Gaelic language through a diverse programme of activities in Ross & Cromarty, across Scotland and beyond.
Based in Dingwall, Fèis Rois is widely recognised as a national leader in the arts, particularly in music education. The organisation aims to give young people and lifelong learners the opportunity to experience and engage with traditional music and Gaelic culture in a way that supports them in developing their social skills and inspires them to reach their full potential.
Central to Fèis Rois’s activity remains our annual programme of residential fèisean (music schools or festivals). These fèisean bring people together to learn and develop skills in traditional music, as well as exploring a range of other art forms and the Gaelic language. The residential fèisean are supported by a busy year-round programme of music-making activities in both the formal education and informal education sectors.
History and Background
In 1986, Fèis Rois was the second Fèis to be established in Scotland. The first Fèis, Fèis Bharraigh, was held on the Isle of Barra in 1981. Christine Martin, a strings instructor from Ross-shire, attended the Fèis in Barra with her family and, when she returned home, she suggested to colleagues that a similar project should be developed in Ross & Cromarty.
Around 50 young people attended the first residential Fèis Rois event in 1986. 30 years later, 9,345 individuals took part in Fèis Rois activities!
There are now more than 40 fèisean in communities across Scotland. However, Fèis Rois is unique within the fèisean movement as it has a team of full-time staff that enable the work of Fèis Rois to take place year-round and extend well beyond the local community. Unlike the other fèisean, which were established as small independent grassroots charities by volunteers in the community, Fèis Rois started its life as a project of Ross & Cromarty District Council (now Highland Council), so it has always had the support of the Local Authority and paid staff.
As more small grassroots fèisean started to emerge across the Highlands and Islands in the late 1980s, it was clear that the volunteers running these tuition festivals needed support, and Fèisean nan Gàidheal was established in 1991 as the independent umbrella association of the Fèis movement. It is a membership organisation that offers a range of services to its members including grant-aid, training, insurance, and instrument loans, as well as ensuring that freelance artists teaching at any of the Fèisean go through the PVG process.
Those involved in establishing the early fèisean were concerned that the traditional songs, music and dance in areas of the Highlands and Islands were fast disappearing and that there were limited opportunities for children to learn those art forms. Today, Fèis Rois provides opportunities for thousands of young people and adults to learn skills in the traditional arts, as well as encouraging cross art form collaboration, innovative contemporary practice and the use of digital technology. Many of those who participated in the first Fèis Rois workshops have now gone onto carve out very successful careers in the Scottish music industry and they regularly return to teach the next generation of young musicians coming through Fèis Rois, and so the cycle continues.