On discovering that Gaelic was sung in Galloway, Knockengorroch organiser, Katch Holmes, felt inspired. The Mumble caught her for a wee blether…
Hello Katch, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Katch: I was born in Dumfries and brought up at Knockengorroch. I live in Edinburgh now though am in Galloway often.
Many people both in Scotland & further afield know you through the Knockengorroch Festival, Can you tell us about it?
Katch: It takes places annually at the end of May in a beautiful location at Knockengorroch – which is the site of an ancient settlement nestled by the river Deugh at the foot of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. Its probably one of the most upland locations for a festival in the UK. We feature traditional and roots music and art from around the
world and also a great emphasis on the environment and heritage of the area.
You’ve taken over the running operation from your parents – do they still get involved?
Katch: My whole family are all involved in the festival in some capacity still. My father, who researches the history of the area, provides the historical grounding to the event, including the way the site is designed e.g. the Longhouse build and the names of the venues. My mother deals with most production and legal issues as well as some
programming and marketing.
You’ve got three famous performers from history coming to play at Knocky next year. Who would they be?
Katch: Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley.
What does Katch Holmes like to do when she’s kicking back?
Katch: Walks in beautiful places with family, dance and yoga.
In 2012 you became a Clore Cultural Leadership fellow – can you tell us about this?
Katch: This was a great opportunity which allowed me to spend a year or so developing skills relating to cultural leadership. I completed a secondment with Serious, who run the London Jazz Festival in London and work with some of the top international artists, amongst other things, and went to research folk music and participation at
SOAS university as well as travel to the Western Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria to research how their music bonded their community and identity under occupation. I learnt a lot and gained courage to strike out on my own path following the programme.
Can you tell us about the Oran Bagraidh residency & its goals?
Katch: The project had two main goals: one to raise awareness of a neglected part of Scotland’s history – that of South West Scotland, through arranging and recording the Galloway Gaelic Oran Bagraidh song – a fascinating and vital snippet of our past – and bringing in some incredible artists from across these islands to do so. The other goal was to celebrate the diversity that provides the roots for these islands. We have always been multi-lingual, with waves of people passing through and settling throughout history. This wonderful process of migration and mingling continues today and should be celebrated. The project involved Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Scots and English – all languages that were spoken across South West Scotland, concurrently and for hundreds
How did the idea come about, & how long has it taken to bring to fruition?
Katch: I found out by accident that Gaelic was spoken across Galloway. It didn’t take much research to find out about Oran Bagraidh. I then discovered that my dad had in fact discovered this song in 1999, had had it performed at Knockengorroch that same year, and had since spent a lot of time and energy in investigating every aspect of the
poem. It turned out his opinions were fascinating and complex and also controversial – and this obviously piqued my interest further! I wanted to bring a wider attention to the piece and involve artists in its treatment as I felt up until then, apart from my father, it had been mainly academics who had spent any time on it. I first had the idea around 2 years ago, applied for funding and the rest is history!
Which artists attended the residency?
Katch: Josie Duncan, Lorcán Mac Mathúna, Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde, Barnaby Brown, MacGillivray, Gwyneth Glyn, Bragod. Rody Gorman, Conor Caldwell and Ben Seal
The first single has just been released, why did you select this one?
Katch: This is the Oran Bagraidh – it’s the title single from the project. The song. It had to be this one.
The album is out in February – how is this sounding at the moment, & can you tell us about its sonic tapestry?
Katch: The album is an incredibly diverse piece of work. I love it. It moves from ancient medieval type trance to cross Scots/ Irish Gaelic traditional to acapella Welsh/ Irish/ Gaelic to spoken word, gothic dream pop and electronic soundscapes. It covers 5 languages and 15 centuries!
Will there be an Oran Bagraidh in 2019?
Katch: The Oran Bagraidh collaboration will be touring in 2019. We will launch the album at Celtic Connections on February 2 and play Knockengorroch on 26 May (you heard it here first) then move onto Wales and Ireland. I hope that starting this project will lead to a much wider appreciation and interest in this song and indeed Galloway’s history more generally. It would be great if we could find another version of the song somewhere as this might help us understand what it means and what time it is from.