THIS year’s Mod in Inverness in October could be the best in its 109-year history if Covid restrictions ease to allow thousands of Gaels to party.

That is the hope of An Comunn Gaidhealach, the organisers of the Royal National Mod, the biggest celebration of Gaelic arts and culture in the world.

Chief executive James Graham said: “Obviously we all want to be in Inverness and with there being a six-month lead-in we all want to be there so our board will make a call on that in April.

“It would be incredible to be able to hold it in front of actual audiences after the year we’ve had when the whole Gaelic community has suffered.

“It’s not just the week of the Mod though, as the choirs and the choristers ordinarily practise all the year round. They come together every week of the year and that is such a close community and they have really suffered this year not being able to do that.’’

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Choir conductor and chorister Joy Dunlop knows that all too well but she is confident that they could meet any measures required of them.

She said: “I think everyone is desperate to get back to singing together but definitely the choirs I’m involved in are also really safety conscious.

“If the Mod does go ahead, we would be thrilled. It has been difficult without a doubt and we miss each other.’’

Last year’s Mod was due to be held in the capital of the Highlands but went virtual instead.

Graham said: “I’m a performer myself and I was lucky enough to be involved in a couple of events at Celtic Connections and that was just a surreal experience with it being an online event.

“It was a very different dynamic and although it was obviously better having that than nothing there is nothing quite like singing at a physical event.’’

The 2019 Mod was held in Glasgow and generated £3.2 million for the local economy with around 12,000 people visiting to watch more than 300 competitors and 200 events.

Inverness could be an even bigger success. A spokesperson for the Highland Council, said: “The National Mod brings immense cultural and economic value to the places it visits and we look forward to it coming once more.’’

An Comunn Gaidhealach is also exploring contingency plans with an online or hybrid Mod both on the cards.

But its chief executive is hoping they don’t have to be implemented.

He said: “The social benefits of the event are huge. So, there would be the loss of that as well if we can’t have it live.

“Then there are the economic drivers, like the uptake in accommodation. The event is eight or nine days long and people come from all over Scotland and everywhere, from the islands and from abroad even.

“They don’t just stay a night, they stay a good few nights. Huge numbers from choirs, participants from schools, so it is a blow from every aspect.’’

An Comunn Gaidhealach accepts that there would have to be a clear playing field for the Mod to go ahead in its truest form.

Graham said: “You would have to have a situation where there are no restrictions. When social distancing comes into play things are really tricky then in terms of audience.

“But even if there are some restrictions, there would still be some opportunities that we could have some physical events with social distancing in place.

“We’d certainly be aspiring to have some physical presence in Inverness.’’

Even if a streamlined or hybrid virtual Mod has to take place the possibility of putting on the blue riband competitions would be an exciting one.

GRAHAM added: “Your individual solo competitions would be far easier to manage than say a choral event which has 16 choirs of 35 in each choir. In terms of social distancing that’s a real challenge.

“And in terms of the choral community, in terms of practising and rehearsing, they’ve not had a chance. They’ve tried to do it online but nothing compares to the real thing.’’

Graham believes that this year’s Mod could be like no other.

He said: “There’s that carrot. People are going to have to come together at some point.

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“And if we’re in a position to come together in October we absolutely want to do it.

“If we did get it on it would feel like the best Mod we’ve ever had. There is actually nothing like it. There are so many friendships made at the Mod. And it is just brilliant seeing people.

“There is the competition side but the whole social side too of music in pubs, ad hoc sessions, and people want to get back to that.

“And if we can get anywhere near to that in a physical sense in October, what a lift for people.’’