Our Benbecula Learning Centre is located in the beautiful Uists, the chain of islands directly to the south of Lewis and Harris. Five minutes walk from white sandy beaches, our courses offer a unique cultural and educational experience and attract locals as well as many students from the mainland and from further afield. Full time Courses delivered on campus include: Music (BA Applied and HNC). Part time courses include Gaelic Language conversation classes, Ulpan, Health and Social Care and a variety of short courses in music and CPD activity. The campus also has a range of Video Conference and computer suites available to support remotely delivered and networked courses. A purpose built studio makes an excellent learning resource, to which students have full access during the academic year.
Accommodation: There is a wide range of different accommodation options in the Uists, ranging from B&B and self-catering in family homes, to house rental. Upon acceptance to the course, students are sent a list of accommodation from the college to assist them in locating suitable housing. Many of the hosts on the list are fluent Gaelic speakers.
Lews Castle College UHI
Isle of Benbecula
t: +44 (0) 1851 770500
Location and Travel
Benbecula: Benbecula Campus Google Maps Location
Lionacleit High School and community centre is adjacent to the college and houses a canteen, sports centre, gym, swimming pool, library.
Ferry ports: Lochmaddy in North Uist – (daily service to Uig) Lochboisdale in South Uist –frequent crossings to Oban For ferry time-tables visit: Caledonian MacBrayne website.
Benbecula is served by an airport with regular flights to and from Glasgow, Inverness, Stornoway and Barra
The local authority covering the Outer Hebrides is Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and their website contains large amounts of information on the local area and services. Uist is home to various festivals and cultural events including: Ceolas festival of Gaelic music, song and dance www.ceolas.co.uk , Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre taigh-chearsabhagh.org/
Visit Hebrides has a large amount of information pertaining to the Outer Hebrides and is well worth a visit.
Why study music in Benbecula?
Benbecula has developed an international reputation for the teaching of traditional music and for providing many opportunities for performance and skills development related to the music professions. Academic provision includes the innovative BA Applied Music Degree, HNC music and the introduction of the new Masters and the Environment degree* based at Lews Castle College, recognises the institution as delivering first class teaching and learning in one of Scotland’s rich and unique cultural environments. Focus is on performance and arranging, with several performance opportunities locally and on the surrounding islands and further afield. Classes and workshops are delivered by outstanding teaching staff, complemented by guest lecturers from away. Over the years the department has developed solid partnership programmes with local community groups such as Ceolas, Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre, festivals and feisean as well as strong links with media and other agencies in the creative industries; meaning that each year we are able to respond to a variety of different opportunities available to us to provide a range of valuable learning experiences; whether it be performance, teaching, recording or film and music.
Uist is well known for its strong Gaelic language community and an ideal and supportive environment to develop your language skills. Gaelic is fundamental to the study of the music from the Outer Hebrides music students are offered free access to selected Gaelic classes up to 5 hours per week. These classes will focus on conversation skills, and on making the most of being in a living Gaelic environment. Examples of learning activities may include a trip to the local museum, potato planting or a beach walk delivered through the Gaelic language.
Features of Music study in Benbecula:
- Increase skills and knowledge in traditional music performance, practice, history and theory.
- Access to top tutors in the traditional music world
- One on one first study tuition,
- Various performance opportunities
- Prepare students for successfully working in the creative industries.
- Provide quality training in recording techniques and production
- A solid preparation that can be useful for vocational development or continuing on to further Higher Education courses
- Regular access to studio facilities
What people have said:
“I would definitely recommend these courses to anyone who wants to learn more about traditional music and Gaelic. It provides many great performance opportunities and a real taste of what being a professional musician is all about! On this course I built a good network of contacts in the industry through meeting a variety of visiting tutors. You couldn't ask for better tutors or a better location”
“In Benbecula I met my future band members with whom I have performed all over Europe and in 2009 we won the prestigious ‘Danny’ Award for our performances”
“My performance level improved hugely, and I was given a comprehensive insight into the creative industries, including the practicalities of making music into a career”
Benbecula alumni include noted professionals: Matheu Watson, James MacKenzie, Angus Nicholson, Naomi Harvey and Lucy MacRae of Lurach. Programme Leader BA Applied Music: Anna-Wendy Stevenson, Programme Leader HNC Music: Simon Bradley, Lecturers: Iain MacDonald, Paul McCallum. Gaelic: Archie Campbell. Visiting tutors include the internationally renowned: Julie Fowlis, Matheu Watson, Jim Neilson, Mairearad Green, Ross Ainslie, Rick Taylor, Tia Files, Kathleen MacInnes
*subject to validation
BA Applied Music
Course Code: W301
The BA Applied Music is offered as a networked degree; meaning that students can base themselves at a selection of colleges throughout the UHI network. The BA Applied Music in Benbecula, provides the opportunity to capitalise on the college activities, facilities and cultural location of the Outer Hebrides all of which have a strong traditional music focus. The degree itself explores all music genres, traditional, Celtic, pop, jazz, classical and rock and combines blended learning to include intensive residencies 4 times per year based all around the Highlands and Islands. Addressing the modern needs of the professional musician, you will study with top individuals in their fields. Complimented by online, community placement and video conference delivery you will focus your study towards the application of music in a variety of professional contexts. You will also develop skills in business, finance, enterprise, networking and communication, which will help you access opportunities nationally, in Europe and the USA.
Fore more information this course see: BA (Hons) Applied Music
Course Code: U103W
This is a practical course for students who wish to improve their performance, musical and recording skills and for those who wish to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to access degree level education. It is an ideal option for someone looking for a stepping-stone before studying music at degree level, or simply a musician wishing to spend a year focusing on improving and developing his or her skills.
Fore more information about this course see: HNC Music
MA Music and the Environment
Creative artists make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the creative economy, particularly in rural communities.
The MA Music in the Environment provides a foundation for musicians to develop new paths for creative, entrepreneurial and environmentally responsible endeavours. In addition the course equips musicians to work within their own community, establishing effective and successful contributions to their local economy.
The course focuses on the three distinct but interrelated themes of music performance and creation; the cultural and historical context; and the creative economy and sustainability. Activities during the course encourage and demand the skills of observation, investigation, experimentation, reflection, creation, innovation and design.
- Opportunity to work in one of the richest natural and cultural environments in the world with leading musicians and experts in the heritage and historical context
- Chance to work on real-life work scenarios to develop new works, performances and enterprises in local setting across the Highlands and Islands
- You will gain key skills and expertise to form complex and compelling artistic works, with a clear understanding of relevant environmental factors
- You will also acquire skills to create sustainable enterprises and make a contribution to the creative economy and network of other artists in the UK and Europe
- Gaelic: Ulpan courses are offered at the Benbecula campus: Ulpan Course Information
- Gaelic conversation and activity classes are also offered. This course will combine classroom-based instruction with a programme of activities. The classes will be preview of the language which will be used in the activities, and the activities will generate language, language comes out of people doing things together . Sample activities may include:1. Shopping and post office. Food is fundamental to our lives. We’re usually talking about it or thinking about it. You’ll learn the names of common foods. You’ll also learn how to express likes, dilikes, preferences and quantities. We’ll talk about the services provided by the post office.2. The beach. We’ll talk about the beach and the landscape. The beach is a place of recreation for us. We’ll talk about recreations and the things we enjoy doing. We’ll go for a walk on the beach and talk about what’s around us.3. Ruaidahibhal. I have a great affection for Ruaidhaibhal , the only hill on Benbecula. From it’s summit you can see all around you. We’ll talk about these places and features of the landscape.4. Potato picking. The potato has been of crucial importance in the history of these islands. To this day, islanders don’t really think that a meal without potatoes is really a meal! We’ll spend time with a local crofter, and get a few stories from him.
Anna Wendy Stevenson
Course Leader Anna-Wendy is the Programme Leader for the BA (hons) applied Music. A fiddler specialising in Celtic music, she has toured the world as a performer and teacher working with a range of artists and community groups. As a composer, she has written music for film, theatre, animation, TV and Royal Conservatoire exam boards. In 2011, her Celtic Connections Festival commission ‘My Edinburgh’ was nominated for a BBC MG Alba ‘composer of the year’. Anna-Wendy has produced several albums and recorded on over 35, working with many artists from different genres including her grandfather, composer and pianist Ronald Stevenson. She has directed for several TV shows and documentaries including BBC Itrad and BBC Christmas service which featured her students from Benbecula. She was also nominated ‘music teacher of the year’ for the Scottish Music Industry Awards in 2011. Touring the British isles with Live Music Now!, Anna-Wendy worked with people with special needs and in so doing developed a deep understanding of the value and relationship between music and health and wellbeing. Prior to a professional music career, Anna-Wendy worked for the BBC as a researcher in the music department of Radio Scotland. She regularly performs with her husband; fiddler and composer Simon Bradley and together they are based in Uist, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
A fiddler and composer, Simon has worked professionally in several Celtic genres as a performer, recording artist and educator. He has taught on numerous workshops and summer schools in the UK and abroad and has recorded and toured with several bands including 'Llan de Cubel' from Asturias in Northern Spain. Simon's compositions are widely performed in the traditional music scene and he recently published a book of his tunes 'Buncrana to Baleshare' and accompanying CD 'Grogarry Lodge' for which he was nominated for BBC MG Alba's 'Composer of the Year 2012' . As composer in residence at local Museum & Arts Centre 'Taigh Chearsabhagh' in March 2012, Simon explored transience in coastal habitation in the Uists. His innovative approach combined visual and musical compositions which were selected to exhibit at London's Apothecary Gallery earlier this year.
Simon launched a new collaboration between Scotland's foremost award winning traditional composers; piper Ross Ainslie and accordionist Mairearad Green which was debuted at Celtic Connections festival in January this year. He lectures on the University of the Highlands and Islands HNC music programme with Lews Castle College in Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and is currently part of the team developing a new Masters in 'Music and the Environment' with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Music tutor (bagpipes, whistle and flute) Iain was born in Glenuig, a tiny Gaelic speaking village which was inaccessible by road until 1967. Educated in Glenuig and Mingarry Schools, he went on to Queen Victoria School in Dunblane, where he was taught piping by Pipe Major John MacKenzie of Campbeltown. Later piping tuition included pìobaireachd from P/M Roderick MacDonald of South Uist and lessons at Duncan Johnstone’s Piping School in Glasgow. Iain is a founding member of the Fir Chlis Gaelic Repertory Theatre Co, and also worked with the 7:84 Theatre Co and Tosg. He played and toured with the traditional band Ossian for nine years, and played in founding line-up of Wolfstone. After that, he joined The Battlefield Band, and was a member until 1996. Iain has recorded with many of the most well known trad musicians working today, and has produced various albums of predominantly Gaelic traditional music, including Ann Martin, Dàimh, Dòchas, Julie Fowlis, Rona Lightfoot, Mary Smith, Blazin’ Fiddles, Kathleen MacInnes. Archie MacAllister, Griogair Lawrie, and Mairead Stewart. He is in demand as a teacher at many educational establishments such as the Traditional School of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Limerick University, the RSAMD and Lews Castle College Benbecula. Iain is currently the artistic director of Ceòlas, the Gaelic Arts Festival in South Uist, and keeps a busy performing schedule.
Archie Campbell (Gaelic)
Mary McCormick (Health and Social Care)