THE highly-anticipated Royal National Mòd kicks off after a year's hiatus with a variety of performances and cultural activities to get underway in Inverness this evening.

The annual celebration of Gaelic culture was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic but will bring fans of Gaelic music and culture together once again tonight (October 8) this year for eight days of events.

To mark the opening of this landmark Mòd, organisers An Comunn Gàidhealach have announced the Gaelic Ambassador of the Year.

The annual Scottish Government honour is, this year, being awarded to Agnes Rennie – a prominent figure in Gaelic publishing and community development.

Rennie (below), who was born and raised on the isle of Lewis, has been an active voice within Gaelic culture since the 70s and is best known for her important work as manager of Gaelic publishing house, Acair.

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She is the 14th annual recipient of the prestigious award supported by the Scottish Government to recognise and celebrate special contributions to Gaelic language and culture.

Rennie said: “It’s been a privilege for me to work with writers and share in the magic that leads to beautiful books, especially children’s books. Gaelic was my first language, and it has continued to be the thread that runs through most of the things I have done in my life.

"I am so pleased to have this special role for the year ahead.”

The programme of performances and competitions will kick off with a special launch concert at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness this evening featuring performances from across the Gàidhealtachd (the Gaelic speaking area of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland), representing an emotional return to live music for many fans and performers.

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Featuring music from new Glasgow band Staran, the famous Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band and Gaelic singer, Margaret Stewart, the evening promises to be a star-studded hootenanny with voices to raise the rafters.

Across the following eight days, the festival will combine face-to-face competitions and concerts, as well as a rich schedule of online performances to be broadcast throughout the week.

In addition to the competitions, a rich fringe programme is on offer including live music at Eden Court’s outdoor venue every evening.

James Graham, chief executive officer of An Comunn Gàidhealach, said: “It is fantastic to be able to welcome back audiences and performers alike to The Royal National Mòd in Inverness. We have a rich 129-year history and last year’s event was sorely missed so we are delighted to see opening day upon us - it’s a landmark moment for us all.

“It is always very fitting that we should mark our opening day not only with this evening’s fantastic opening concert, but with the news that Agnes Rennie will take on the mantle as Gaelic Ambassador of the Year. Anges’ contribution to our language cannot be overstated and this title is richly deserved.”

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Cabinet Secretary for Languages Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The Scottish Government is committed to supporting An Comunn Gàidhealach in the delivery of the Royal National Mòd. Congratulations to Agnes Rennie on receiving the Gaelic Ambassador of the Year Award and I wish all those involved in this year’s Mod a very successful week.”

Councillor Calum Munro, chair of The Highland Council’s Gaelic Committee said: "Bringing a national Mòd to fruition is the culmination of months and indeed years of preparation by the local organising committee, An Comunn Gàidhealach officers, officers of the hosting local authority and the efforts of many volunteers too.

“The opening evening in Eden Court [tonight] will be a special celebration which will be livestreamed around the world and I look forward to 8 further days of dynamic cultural events which will be enjoyed by those in attendance in Inverness and those watching at home.

"An Comunn Gàidhealach’s recognition of Agnes Rennie as Gaelic Ambassador of the Year is a recognition of her active role in the Gaelic world over several decades and I warmly congratulate her on this award.”

If you want to view the full programme of events for the Royal National Mòd, or buy tickets for in-person and livestreamed events then follow this link.