Tens of thousands of people in Scotland, the equivalent of thirty secondary schools, are learning traditional music in Scotland. Those are the findings of a report, compiled by the Traditional Music Forum. The report also finds that community organisations deliver great value for money. However, much of the activity is supported by thousands of volunteers rather than grant funding, and the report warns that the present scale of activity might not be sustainable.
Across the 64 organisations taking part in the census, 23,198 people were involved in learning traditional music with 17,240 under 18.
The options are increasing for learners too as it is not just fiddle and accordion being taught. Over 27 instruments are on offer – including clarsach, flute, mandolin , percussion – with various means of delivery, from individual tutoring to group tuition and informal sessions, with many organisations offering more than one type of learning opportunity.
Ellie Logan, Membership Officer of the Forum said, ‘Celtic Connections has just drawn to a close earlier this month, showcasing Scottish talent as the driving force of this international festival. We see traditional music and new bands such as Niteworks being increasingly recognised as a key asset for agencies such as VisitScotland, who showcase the band for their promotional video for the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. None of this could happen without the core base of community learning of traditional music.’
The report found that challenges for organisations includefinding permanent accommodation for classes, finding tutors, maintaining a supply of volunteers to run everything and raising funding through a range of entrepreneurial activities such as dances, merchandise and busking. Very few of the organisations taking part were in receipt of local authority or Creative Scotland funding. Only 6 of the 64 organisations taking part In the survey had Creative Scotland funding and just 9 of the 64 participating organisations had any kind of local authority funding.
There were 2,140 volunteers involved across the 64 surveyed organisations, from delivery of tutoring through to fundraising and governance.
Responses were received from across Scotland, from Annan to Harris. One very active group is Blackford Fiddle Group (BFG), based near Perth. They run a wide range of classes, sessions, ceilidhs attracting people of all ages across the community to take part in traditional music. Organiser Andrew Bachell highlights:
'We are a self-funded volunteer led group and raise funds to support our work. Like many groups in rural areas our challenge is finding premises. Recently our village hall was shut for 8 months but we kept going wherever we could as it is so important for all of us. We have players from 7 years old to those in their seventies all learning alongside each other.'