Ùr-Sgeul - New Writing in Scottish Gaelic
Read work by Ùr-Sgeul writers next column left.

Ùr-Sgeul is an inventive initiative to develop new Gaelic writing for adults. Co-ordinated by the Gaelic Books Council, and supported by the Scottish Arts Council Writers' Factory as well, it is hoped, as the new Gaelic development agency, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the project aims to facilitate the publication of these new works both in traditional paper format as well as new media formats including CD and e-book.

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On Sunday, 24 August 2003, the Scottish Arts Council saw the first tangible results of their cash investment in a brand new publishing imprint, Ùr-Sgeul, created to bring fresh and vibrant new Gaelic prose to the market place.

Ath-Aithne (Re-acquaintance) - a collection of contemporary Gaelic and English short stories by Martin MacIntyre - was launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the 24th of August. Ath-Aithne is the first of twelve titles planned over the next two years, with four of these works due out in the next six months. The second title on the new list is a major new novel entitled An Oidhche Mus Do Sheol Sinn (The Night Before We Sailed) by Angus Peter Campbell.

Aonghas MacNeacail (Angus MacNicol), hailed the emergence of Martin MacIntyre as a significant step for contemporary Gaelic literature: 'We have here a vital and talented new Gaelic voice'. Praise for Angus Peter Campbell's new work has been equally forthcoming. Father Colin MacInnes, originally of South Uist and now working to alleviate poverty in Ecuador, said: 'It's the first book in Gaelic that I just could not comfortably close without making me reflect on life and existence: it brought a tear to the eye and a smile to the face'.

There are almost 60,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland and just over 95,000 who claim to understand, speak, read or write it. There is also substantial interest from abroad. In North America, Europe and Australia there are Gaelic networks in each of these continents involving a tremendous number of Gaelic learners, community groups and organisations. More surprisingly perhaps, orders are already coming in from readers as far afield as Japan and Argentina.

Sales of Gaelic titles in Scotland have increased by 50% over the last 3 years and are continuing to increase. The market for Gaelic books is definitely exanding.

The support through the Scottish Arts Council's Writers' Factory is particularly welcome, and Gavin Wallace, Head of Literature, has been central to the support from the Arts Council. The involvement of the new Gaelic development agency, Bòrd na Gàidhlig is also important. Their support will allow the development of talking book and, where appropriate e-book, versions of titles.

This article first appeared in The Scotsman.

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