A public meeting is being held tomorrow (Saturday September 25) as part of the campaign to create An Taigh Cèilidh, a non-profit cultural hub and social enterprise in Stornoway.
Controversy reached national newspapers in Scotland and England after news broke in the summer of proposals for the coffee shop, gift shop and local events centre which says it will promote Gaelic through its culture, economic value, its speakers and their talents, skills, products, and achievements.
And the organisers still need support to make this a reality at the proposed location in Cromwell Street, Stornoway. So, a public meeting is being held at the Fàilte centre in Bayhead tomorrow at 3pm. The meeting notice says it will be bilingual.
Behind the project is Charles ‘Teàrlach’ Wilson. He explained earlier this year: “I'm Charles, though my Leòdhasach family and friends know me as Teàrlach, even in English! I'm part Leòdhasach, part Glaswegian, and part Welsh!
“In 2016, my Welsh mum, Margaret, founded Tolgate Coffee in Strood, Kent. It had always been a dream of hers to have a sophisticated coffee shop with the heart of the community at its centre.
“After hard work and dedication, with some help from family and friends, she now owns one of the nicest coffee shops, with some of the best food and drink, in Kent.
“Now, expanding on Tolgate, I have joined the team to make Tolgate Coffee a national, family-run business, offering a unique side to coffee shops: local culture.
“There's plenty to choose from in the UK, but the Outer Hebrides of Scotland have some of the oldest, most traditional ways of life in Europe. Tolgate Coffee is going to use its Kent branch as a foundation for its daughter branches, but each will have their own unique take on the local culture of their locations.
“Now that I teach Gaelic, students often ask for recommendations for immersive experiences. This is where Gaelic differs fundamentally from, say, Italian. And, living in Stornoway, my guests often ask me where they can experience local culture…
“So An Taigh Cèilidh will provide the immersive experience for learners, the social space for speakers, the flavour of the island to visitors, and the economic support to Gaelic arts and traditional industries.
“The space we intend to buy is on Cromwell Street in the heart of Stornoway, next door to the Town Hall, the Stornoway Historical Society, and the Story of Harris Tweed exhibition.
“All staff will be Gaelic-speaking, and every interaction will start in Gaelic. We will host events and performances in Gaelic, such as talks about local history, singing, poetry recital, book readings, and traditional music.
“We will sell Gaelic books, Gaelic greetings cards, Gaelic post cards, Gaelic CDs, and Gaelic DVDs. We will sell gift items, such as soap, candles, tweed items, art, photos, frames, and cups - made by Gaelic speakers and all labelled in Gaelic.
“Above all, it will appeal to everyone, whether they are a native speaker or have no Gaelic at all. Whether you just want to experience local culture, or whether you want to find friends with similar interests, and have a place where you can, well, just use Gaelic.”