Indigenous: Welsh, Gaelic, Scots, Cornish and More

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What does it mean to be a speaker of one of the UK’s several non-English indigenous languages?

Come early for pre-event taster sessions of the Welsh and Cornish languages (18.15 – 18.45, free for event ticketholders).

Much is made of the dazzling diversity of languages spoken in modern-day Britain, but far less attention is paid to the more than two million speakers of non-English languages that originate in the UK, among them Welsh, Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, British Sign Language and Angloromani. 

Poets Marcas Mac an Tuairneir (Gaelic), Christine De Luca (Scots) and musician and artist Gwenno (Welsh & Cornish) join British Library translator-in-residence Rahul Bery for a discussion about the past, present and future of the indigenous languages of Britain.

In a divided country uncertain of its identity, these tongues, several of them far older than English, play an uncertain role. While language rights and visibility in Scotland and Wales in particular have advanced over recent decades, speakers still have to counter constant accusations that their day-to-day methods of communication are extinct, useless or a waste of money.

Could wider knowledge about these languages enhance an deepen an understanding of Britishness? How can they enrich the cultural and artistic landscape? What does it mean to use them daily in a country, in a world where English is so dominant? And how can they interact with other forms of linguistic diversity

Christine De Luca lives in Edinburgh. She writes in English and Shetlandic, her mother tongue. She was appointed Edinburgh's Makar for 2014-2017.  Besides several children’s stories and one novel, she has had seven poetry collections and four bi-lingual volumes published. She particularly enjoys collaborating with composers and musicians. Her poems have been selected four times for the Best Scottish Poems of the Year.

Marcas Mac an Tuairneir (Mark Spencer Turner) writes poetry, prose, drama and journalism, in Gaelic and English, and splits his time between Edinburgh and his hometown of York. As well as publishing two full-length bilingual poetry collections, he has written plays and translated opera librettos. In 2017 he won the Wigtown Book Festival prize for Gaelic Poetry.

Gwenno Saunders lives in Cardiff, and was raised speaking both Welsh and Cornish. She has released two highly critically acclaimed solo albums: Y Dydd Olaf (2015) with lyrics written mostly in Welsh, and Le Kov (2018), which is entirely in Cornish. Y Dydd Olaf won the 2014-2015 Welsh Music Prize

Pre-event Welsh and Cornish taster sessions for ticketholders

Come early for pre-event taster sessions of the Welsh and Cornish languages (free for event ticketholders)

Welsh Taster Session (Knowledge Centre Bronte Room, 18.15 – 18.45)

With Jane Gwyn

Ahead of an important panel on the status of the UK's indigenous minority languages, come and get a taste of the oldest living British language, Welsh. Welsh, or Cymraeg, has over half a million speakers inside and outside of Wales, and after a period of heavy decline over the twentieth century, has been bolstered by successive language acts, the establishment of a Welsh language TV channel, and Welsh devolution. Come and get a feel of this ancient tongue!

Cornish Taster Session (Knowledge Centre Dickens Room, 18.15 – 18.45)

With Mark Elton and Polin Prys

Ahead of an important panel on the status of the UK's indigenous minority languages, come and get a taste of one of the least well-known: Cornish. A close relative of Welsh and Breton, the last native monoglots are estimated to have died in the 18th century. But the 20th and 21st century have seen a revival, and there are now thought to be more than 2,000 speakers. Maybe you will become one of them!

Images: Gwenno Saunders, Christine DeLuca taken by Dawn Marie Jones and Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, courtesy of Playwrights Studio Scotland


Name: Indigenous: Welsh, Gaelic, Scots, Cornish and More
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £10.00
Senior 60+: £8.00
Student: £7.00
Registered Unemployed: £7.00
Under 18: £7.00
Member Ticket: £10.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546