Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Celebrating the Legacy of Mona Douglas in Music and Song


It’s now twenty five years since the death of Mona Douglas, but her memory lives on with the resurgence of interest in Manx culture which was greatly influenced by the determination and enthusiasm of this forthright individual.

In response to this poignant anniversary a special concert has been organised at the Centenary Centre in Peel which will bring together many of the people who were either influenced by the work of Mona Douglas, or knew her personally.

Appropriately entitled ‘Mona’s Isle’, the idea for a themed evening of music, song and dance was inspired by a similar idea undertaken for the celebrated English folk music collector Cecil Sharp, and will be an opportunity to show how valuable her influence was, and still is, on the Isle of Man.

Mona Douglas lived much of her life in the country district of Ballaragh, a rural enclave situated above the north east coast of the Island, where she worked on the family farm and held down a job as rural librarian. Despite her undeniable fondness for the Isle of Man, Mona did venture away from these shores to live in Ireland, Wales and London, where she came into contact with many prominent individuals who influenced her direction within the cultural movement.

There’s no doubt that this petite, feisty and arguably self-motivated individual was the catalyst for the rebirth of Manx culture, working tirelessly against the tide of public opinion which saw little value in what she was doing.

Mona was a prolific writer, collector of traditional music, song and dance and a fluent speaker of the Manx language, infusing the youngsters who joined the youth movement ‘Aeglagh Vannin’, with an awareness of cultural identity. Her greatest achievement, however, was the revival of the local Inter-Celtic festival Yn Chruinnaght which remains an established feature of the Manx summer calendar.

The evening will feature a host of Island talent to be recorded both on CD and DVD, and will include both Manx Gaelic choirs and The Mona Douglas Project which will focus on gifted individuals who will set a selection of Mona’s poems to music and create songs to accompany some of her tunes. An exhibition of memorabilia about her life and work will be on display in the Atholl Room.

A Centenary Centre production in association with the Manx Heritage Foundation, this celebration of Mona’s life will commence at 7.30pm on the 22nd September, with free tickets available throughout the Island at the usual outlets.

Meanwhile Ramsey Heritage Trust will host a talk by Annie Kissack about the life of Mona Douglas at Ramsey Town Hall at 7.30pm on the 18th October with a nominal charge of £3 for non-members, which includes refreshments.

Valerie Caine
© August 2012

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