• May 3, 2015


Manx speaker publicly withdraws in protest over competition sponsorship.

Officially, it’s “The Manx Festival Music, Speech and Dance Festival”. Unofficially, it’s “The Guild” and was first run in 1893. It has a uniquely Manx flavour, and generations have been proud to take part at all age levels for 126 years. Speaking at the close of the centenary festival in 1993, former President of Tynwald, Charles Kerruish said, “This festival demonstrates the strength of Manx culture as it is today. Frankly it makes me feel proud to be Manx and happy in the knowledge that our cultural heritage is in such safe keeping.”

Twenty-six years later, things aren’t so rosy. This year, for the first time ever, “The Guild” is subject to sponsorship. The sponsorship has come from Dandara, a building firm operating from the Isle of Man which established in the early 1990s. It is known for aggressive policies of land acquisition and development and has been the subject of frequent criticism and resentment from the broader Manx community. More recently, it has been allegedly associated with a “blind trust” and Charles “Buster” Lewin who was subsequently imprisoned for election fraud in relation to former TV chef Kevin Woodford’s unsuccessful attempt at election to Manx politics. No small wonder then, that highly respected Manx speaker, Stewart Bennett, withdrew from the Bible Reading in Manx competition in a very public fashion.

When Stewart was called to the stage, he simply said, “Gow-jee my leshtal agh cha nel mee arryltagh goaill ayrn jeh’n cho-hirrey shoh kindagh rish yn raantys noa, or, for those of you listening in black and white, I am sorry but I am withdrawing from this competition in protest at the organiser’s choice of sponsorship.” Despite an initial gasp of surprise from a couple of people, there quickly followed a comment of support and applause from many of the audience, including fellow competitors. There was a rash of other, unexplained withdrawals totalling 23% of the Manx speaking / singing classes.

It’s not exactly headline news, but those who think that our language can be bought and our souls with it, and those who have taken “the King’s Shilling” need to always bear in mind that there are still those who love the language “lesh annym as cree” (with heart and soul) rather than with cheque book and bank account. We don’t need a competition propped up by private interest to speak it.

For an authoritative insight into the festival’s history and cultural significance, please read the paper by Amanda Griffin.

(Prepared for Celtic News by Mark Kermode – Mannin Branch)

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


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