taking our culture forward

Looking back at 40 years of Manx culture

Tue, 15 Mar 2022

This was one article in a series by Breesha Maddrell, Director of Culture Vannin, looking at the journey of Manx culture and its importance to our sense of identity and belonging. It was first published in the Manx Independent:

Sometimes we think that nothing ever changes, and when it does, we don’t always notice how significant that is. It’s only when we take enough time to look back that we see the turning points, the moments that make a difference.

Throughout 2022, Culture Vannin will be celebrating its 40th anniversary and the ways that we work with others to celebrate Manx culture and cultural heritage in the Island and throughout the world.

Forty years ago, Manx culture was full of excitement and energy, but didn’t always feel joined-up. People were speaking and teaching Manx, musicians were discovering old tunes and songs in the archives, groups were representing the Island internationally at festivals, books were being published, and artists, writers and historians were hard at work, but Manx culture didn’t have a home or central focus, it didn’t have the support it deserved.

Crafts expert and former art teacher, Sheila Tarr, was determined to make a change. Well-known for her work in organising the arts and crafts displays and competitions at Yn Chruinnaght Celtic festival, she had seen first-hand how amazing cultural centres and organisations in other countries were, and the kind of support and recognition those involved in Manx culture deserved as they told the story of the Isle of Man nationally and internationally.

In July 1980, she presented a petition to Tynwald, calling for a permanent centre for the Island’s art, culture, craft, language, literature, festivals, and so much more. She had a vision for a space which could be used by different cultural groups for conferences, meetings, performances, archives, and even to be used as a youth hostel. The petition received support in principle from Tynwald, a Select Committee was appointed with Clare Christian MHK as Chair, and their report led to the Manx Heritage Foundation Act 1982 which was agreed by Tynwald.

Under the name of the Manx Heritage Foundation for many decades, or the more recent trading name of Culture Vannin, we have worked to support and promote Manx culture by partnering with the community, government agencies and business in order to fulfil our founding objects. Communication, education and accessibility are key to this, and development work for Manx language, Manx music and dance, and online and educational resources makes sure that is possible. The charity also supports grassroots projects through an annual grants scheme, knowing that the time, knowledge, skill and enthusiasm of those involved with Manx culture adds enormous value by effectively applying a multiplier effect to what are often modest sums of money.

Culture Vannin is proud to support, promote and celebrate contemporary Manx culture, drawing on our cultural heritage to help shape an exciting future. Look out for special releases, projects and events – March sees the award of special 40th anniversary grants totalling £40,000, in addition to our regular grants scheme.

The year will be an extra-special celebration of Manx culture and all those who create, practise and enjoy it, and who have done so for decades.

More information about the Culture Vannin 40 anniversary celebrations can be found here: Culture Vannin 40