2019 Nova Scotia Gaels Jam

February 18-23, Tatamagouche

Sin sibh! | Greetings friend!

It is our honour and privilege to invite YOU to apply for the 5th Nova Scotia Gaels Jam! This Jam will connect 30 diverse, engaged and committed leaders from across Nova Scotia’s Gaelic community for a week of deep listening, sharing, self-discovery, systemic inquiry and community building. It will take place from Monday, February 18, to Saturday, February 23, 2019, at the Tatamagouche Centre on mainland Nova Scotia on the Sunrise Trail.

Ge beag an t-ugh, thig eun ás.

Although the egg is small, a bird will come from it.

Many members in the Gaelic community have families, hold full time jobs, and do a large amount of volunteer work around various Gaelic events each year. This doesn't leave a lot of time for community leaders to connect on a deeper level, and have meaningful discussion about what we're all working towards. We all see each other from time to time at milling frolics, festivals and events in the community but it's rare that we have much of a chance for extended time with each other talking about the community:

Where are things going? What trends do we see? What is giving us the most hope? What's working well? What isn't? What ideas do we have for future projects?

There are questions of how to work most efficiently, how to be stewards for the culture, projects ideas, ways to help our children absorb the language so Gaelic will be strong in our homes and communities, and how to stay healthy and whole. The Nova Scotia Gaels Jam is taking the time to have these discussions with a group of talented facilitants and peers. And, it will be a great chance to spend time in fellowships with Gaels celebrating Gaelic culture and language!

What is the intention of a Jam?

Jamag am Baile Sheumais, an Dàmhair 2018 | Mini Gaels Jam in Jamesville, October 2018

Jamag an Cnoc an t-Sithein, an t-Samhainn 2017 | Mini Gaels Jam - In Gaelic! - Nov 2017

The Jam is not a conference, seminar or a typical meeting. Instead, it is a gathering for three different levels of change: the internal (self), the interpersonal (relationships) and the systemic (the whole). On the internal level, it is a place for participants to share and reflect on our life journeys and what makes us who we are today. It is an opportunity to grow in self-knowledge, to ask meaningful questions, to unlearn our fears and blocks, access our hearts, and open our minds to move more boldly in the world. It is a time to recharge and renew and to experience self-care and personal sustainability.

On the interpersonal level, we come together to share our culture, our stories and our struggles, to deepen in our understanding of each other and of ourselves. The Jam values diversity and seeks to bring together a diverse group of Gaelic activists and enthusiasts no matter what your level of Gaelic or work in the Gaelic community.

During the five days, we hope to discover our commonalities and celebrate our differences. We take an honest, courageous and loving look at the struggles we face in the effort to reclaim our cultural identity in a positive way. We hope to address such issues as guilt, shame, confusion, money, sustainability, politics, etc., – and seek to have authentic conversations to heal these issues. We know such conversations are rare in our societies, but we believe that the way to move forward with them is to shine a light, slow down, and take time for vulnerability, truth-telling, risk-taking, and deep listening. The Jam provides a unique container, where continuous inquiry and intimacy create the alchemy to have these conversations in a focused, safe and loving way — on levels we don't 'normally' engage in.

On the systemic level, through the Jam, we become clearer about our vision and work in our communities and the world. We get a chance to link issues that aren’t commonly linked, to notice crucial intersection points, and get a clearer picture of the whole. We come together to learn from each other: about what is working, about what mistakes we have made, about where we need help. We have a chance to share tools and ideas to support one another. In turn, we hope this helps us to generate a body of collective wisdom for activism in the region and a collective vision for the world we want. We also hope it will enable each participant to feel deepened in their capacity to affect meaningful positive change and carry their dreams forward.

Nìthear càrn mór do chlachan beaga.

A large cairn is made of small stones.

Who is being invited to the Gaels Jam?

As mentioned above, we seek to bring together Gaelic leaders and learners in our communities. We are looking for a range in:

  • age (from young adults to experienced elders, we want an inter-generational group that reflects our Gaelic community, children with their families are very welcome);
  • leadership (from ‘person on the ground’ to ‘director and founder’);
  • years of experience (from ‘just starting out’ to ‘been at it for a while’);
  • role in community (learners, teachers, speakers, singers, musicians, dancers, story tellers, tradition bearers, advocates, Gaels); and
  • expression (any sincere expression of Nova Scotia Gaelic culture and identity).

Jamag na Gàidhlig am Bradag, an Gearran '18 | Mini Gaelic Gaels Jam in Baddeck Feb '18

**Please note that this is a dry event. This means we will refrain from partaking in alcohol, marijuana and illegal drugs during our time together. This is not because our team has judgements around these substances and their use and/or abuse. Rather we put great care and effort into the intention of our time together and have found in the past that the absence of drugs helps us refine our intention, listen deeply, and show up with clear heads and hearts. A number of past participants have been surprised to notice how much they enjoyed being at a dry event together, and we hope you will too!


We will not have typical facilitators, as the facilitation team will also be participating in full – as “facilitants” (facilitator-participants). None of us come with all of the answers. Instead, we will co-create the space together — using circles, conversations, spiritual practice, artistic expression, movement, silence, and play — to explore our questions, bring more of our whole selves, and live into our answers, and new questions (!), using the depth and power of the experiences and knowledge in the room.

Alison Etter

Alison has been Jamming since 2013 and she facilitated her first Jam - entirely in Gaelic - in February of this year. She is a United Church Minister with a Masters in Divinity currently serving the community of Glace Bay and living in Whitney Pier. Her compassion for others shines through in her work as a Minister and activist whether she's starting a community garden or visiting friends and community members at home and in hospital. The Jams have been a unique space for her gifts to land as she shows up organized, open-minded, lovingly and full of humor.

Amber Buchanan

Òmar Bhochanan

Amber is a committed and engaged leader in the Gaelic community and has been learning and sharing her language and culture for the past 14 years. She has an unwavering passion and gift for bringing people together to find deep connection, compassion, understanding, healing, and growth. Amber draws upon her deep Gaelic roots as well as many international experiences and connections for strength and guidance in the work she does. She's been jamming for the past seven years in Canada, the USA, Mexico, India, Thailand and Turkey.

Heather Sparling

Heather is a music professor at Cape Breton University, where she researches Gaelic song and traditional music and dance while also teaching a variety of academic Celtic music and dance courses. She recently published a book about puirt-a-beul called *Reeling Roosters and Dancing Ducks: Celtic Mouth Music* (2014). She is interested in examining how music can be used to help with Gaelic language revitalization efforts. She has been learning Gaelic since 1994, when she took her first class in Edinburgh. Since then, she's studied in Scotland (notably at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, where she spent a year), Cape Breton, and Toronto. She's taught Gaelic in Sydney, Toronto, and at the Gaelic College. She's also the Chieftain (VP) of the Cape Breton Gaelic Society.

Joyce MacDonald

of Centerville, Cape Breton, began studying Gaelic in school at the age of 13. Over the years she has studied with Margie Beaton, Bernard Cameron and Carmen MacArthur. In 2011, she participated in the Bun ‘s Barr Gaelic language master-apprentice program, working with Mary MacKinnon of Margaree. She also spends time in Mabou with her own Gaelic-speaking grandmother, Jessie MacDonald.

Before joining the Gaelic College staff team in 2013, she had worked in many places, including stints as a newspaper reporter, a dance instructor, a call centre agent, a research assistant and a tour guide. She co-facilitated the most recent Jamags in Jamesvile and Baddeck.

Heather Foran

Heather is an educator, facilitator, and organizer who is constantly in a process of learning how to slow down and let go. She co-founded the Field Academy, a traveling high school program that learns about social and environmental justice issues in the United States. She is also a YES! jam facilitator and was involved in starting the Northeast Changemakers Jam and the Education Jam. She has been committed to living, working, and organizing where she grew up in southern Maine and is at the moment figuring out how to weave the work she has been doing into a new path as a midwife. She's a sucker for puns and T-rex costumes and loves the ocean in the winter.


We are so excited to be inviting all generations to this Jam. With the number of children and babies growing in our community we invite you to consider bringing your family along. There are various childcare and family options. Please inquire for more details!

NS Gaels Jam in Mabou 2015

Nuair a bhios sinn ri òrach, biomaid ri òrach is nuair a bhios sinn ri maorach, biomaid ri maorach.

One thing at a time and everything in its own time.

First EVER Gaels Jam on the North Shore 2013

Nova Scotia Gaels Jam 2014 Participants and Community Members

Nova Scotia Gaels Jam gratefully recognizes the support of the Province of Nova Scotia through the Office of Gaelic Affairs. We are pleased to work in co-operation with the Office of Gaelic Affairs to design and create opportunities to work with the Nova Scotia Gaelic community to celebrate Gaelic language and culture, strengthen our community in growing and learning together.