CASE STUDY: Gaelic Communities Fund
Urras Taobh Siar na Hearadh | West Harris Trust
Gaelic Communities Fund Awarded: £6,775
West Harris Trust (WHT) began in 2008 and now owns nearly 18,000 acres of land, along with housing, a community hall, tourist facilities, land management, and much more. WHT employs 4 staff and focuses on economic, social, and renewable development opportunities in the area. They have some significant projects under their belt and were looking to the cultural and heritage opportunities.
WHT serves a traditionally Gaelic-speaking community, however today many residents are either not fluent or at least not confident Gaelic speakers. A Gaelic-speaking student was recruited for a 10-week project over the summer with the goal of increasing the use of Gaelic both within the work of the Trust and the wider West Harris community. Activities conducted included Gaelic lessons and events, integration of Gaelic on WHT’s website and social media, the creation of a community survey, and production a final report considering current and future use of Gaelic within the work of the Trust. The student also conducted an addition of an interview with a resident celebrating their 100th brithday that looked at changes within the community over the decades.
The survey and resulting report showed that community support is high and encouraging. The creation of, circulation, and analysis of the report required significant time but provides a clear picture of the support within the community. The events that took place also allowed feedback to be fed into the report and provided a useful tool to engage the community and visitors alike.
By employing a student for a short contract, vital engagement work was completed, and will both increase the experience of the student but increase the understanding of the local community on their priorities, of which Gaelic clearly has support.
Taking the time to create a survey provided the opportunity for clear, concise, and detailed feedback from the community. While the results may not be a surprise to some, it is important for cultural projects to have community backing to succeed. The use of a range of engagement tools allowed a wide selection of people to be consulted and created a clear picture of support within the community.
From this project, the Trust observed a clear mandate from the community to see an increased prominence of Gaelic within the work of the Trust. WHT sees the need to incorporate Gaelic into the ethos of the Trust (as opposed to specifically segregated Gaelic projects) to ensure the longevity of this work.