Every week as part of our MLitt, we are lucky enough to have a visiting speaker from a different part of the publishing industry come chat to us about their work. Below is an outline of one of these visits.
This blog was originally published here, as part of my coursework.
The second guest speaker of semester two was Rosemary Ward, Ceannard of Comhairle nan Leabhraichean. That’s Director of The Gaelic Books Council to most.
Gaelic is an indigenous language, with 1.7% of the Scottish population having some Gaelic skills, while 32,400 can read, write, and speak the language. There are also Gaelic speakers abroad. 24% of the Council’s online sales are shipped abroad. Surprisingly, Germany is a large market – due in no small part to Michael Klevenhaus, founder of the Gaelic Academy in Bonn.
The first Gaelic book was published in 1567 but until the 20th century most publications were church focused. Things changed in 1951 with GAIRM magazine, which introduced a new generation of Gaelic writers and created a demand for an organisation. Hence the Gaelic Books Council was set up in 1968. They have charity status and are publicly funded.
1985 was another turning point with the opening of the first Gaelic Medium School in Glasgow, creating a demand for Gaelic textbooks.
The Gaelic Books Council have three goals:
- Support writers and publishers
The Council commission books, give grants to publishers and attend literary festivals. Rather than having just one special Gaelic literary festival, the idea is to normalise Gaelic by having a presence at all the big festivals. They also support writers and publishers through talent development and training. For instance, there was a real delay getting Gaelic books published because of the lack of editors. The Gaelic Books Council have produced intensive courses to fill the skills gap.
- Capacity Building
There are two annual prizes for new Gaelic writers and the Council also has several partnerships and scholarships, such as the biannual Gaelic scholarship at our own University of Stirling.
- Sales and Marketing
They have a shop in Glasgow, An Léanag. Check it out if you’re passing! (Mansfield St, just off Byres Rd.) In addition, there is an online shop and they are active on social media and in reaching out to schools and communities, to expose people to Gaelic.
Challenges Rosemary identified were the small number of publishers, AMAZON! (always), negative perceptions of Gaelic in the media and funding.
On a more positive note, developments and opportunities that were outlined included
- Lasag, a series of novellas for learners and young people.
- Children’s co-editions and originations.
- Donald Meek award, which is only for unpublished works.
- New talent.
- Leugh le Linda. Linda Macleod is their reading ambassador and does reading sessions, which the BBC are now planning to film as a series.
- Steall, a new Gaelic magazine, a new version of the pivotal GAIRM, which is no longer in publication.
We must say móran taing to Rosemary for an engaging, interesting and informative talk on Gaelic publications. If this has peaked your interest in Gaelic, head over to learngaelic.scot to get started!