17 Jan RBV cultural award recognises over 60 years of community contribution
The Michael Players RBV 2017
Over 60 years of community cultural contribution recognised by this year’s Manannan’s Choice of the Year award
This year’s Reih Bleeaney Vanannan – Manannan’s Choice of the Year – award from Culture Vannin recognises over 60 years of community cultural contribution through the work of The Michael Players in presenting, preserving and promoting Manx dialect theatre.
If you haven’t been lucky enough to see The Michael Players themselves perform at different venues across the Island, you may have enjoyed the comedy of The Deemsters at young farmers or community gatherings, or indeed the dialect poetry of T E Brown, Cushag or Kathleen Faragher, which, when recited well, share the warmth, comedy and sense of identity and place contained within Manx dialect writing. The plays of Cushag, Christopher Shimmin, Mona Douglas, Kathleen Faragher and many more make up a unique tradition which could easily have been lost if it had not been for successive generations of enthusiasts with a strong sense of community and a desire to share and celebrate Manx culture.
Revived after the Second World War by Miss Mary Cannell for the Manx branch of the Celtic Congress, plays were produced by her and Mrs Edna Cooil for many years, with occasional tours outside of Kirk Michael itself. The main focus for the Michael Players is the annual Oie’ll Verree event on Old Christmas Eve at the Ebenezer Hall in Kirk Michael. Taking the format of a traditional Manx gathering, Manx music, dance, recitations and even magic shows line up before the year’s play is revealed. In recent years, the evenings have raised money for the Michael Heritage Trust.
The Michael Players are not just performers, though; they are sole guardians of the most important collection of Manx dialect play manuscripts anywhere in the world. With over 60 plays currently being transcribed, their collection is larger than any other archive. Key members are also involved in the recent formation of the Manks Dialect Group, which aims to celebrate and share some of our unique speech patterns, to show how language shapes who we are and how we think.
It is particularly appropriate that, in the year that we celebrate the cultural contribution of Sophia Morrison, whose own Peel Players took inspiration from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, that we celebrate vernacular theatre, plays written to celebrate a sense of place here in the Isle of Man.
The award was made at the Manks Concert held at the Centenary Centre in Peel, organised by the Mannin branches of the Celtic Congress and Celtic League together with Mec Vannin on Saturday 14 January, with members of the Michael Players past and present in attendance.
Chair of Culture Vannin, Hon Chris Thomas MHK, commented “Recognising the Michael Players in this way is wonderful acknowledgement not only of the safeguarding of a tradition by a community through the decades but also celebration of a sense of place through the performance of culture”. He continued: “We wish the Michael Players every success in inspiring future generations as the current generation seems to have been inspired.”
The presentation of the award also represented the first official engagement for Culture Vannin’s new Chair, Hon Chris Thomas MHK, who was appointed in November. Having moved to the Island in 2001, in his first couple of years on the Island Chris completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Manx Studies, and is Chair of the Island’s United Nations Association, and member of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian and Victorian Societies, Manx Wildlife Trust, and The Friends of Manx National Heritage. He was honoured to be asked to deliver the annual Illiam Dhone Address in January 2017. Chris was a founding member of Culture Vannin’s Building Conservation Forum and is looking forward to serve as Culture Vannin initiates, inspires and supports a wide range of activity.
‘Manannan’s Choice of the Year’ or the ‘Reih Bleeaney Vanannan’ is an annual cultural award from Culture Vannin
made to an individual or group who has made the greatest contribution to the Island’s cultural heritage. The nominees come from a wide variety of backgrounds, working to promote and support language, literature, art, music, dance, history, education and the environment, and many more. The Michael Players received a cheque for £500 and chose the Manks Dialect Group as the recipient of a second cheque for £500 which goes to a nominated cultural cause.
To find out more about the work of Culture Vannin, and to see the Michael Players in action performing ‘The Dumb Cake’ in 2014, see www.culturevannin.im