Cân y Bugail

We are here to celebrate the lives and cultures of hill farmers and their families, across the smaller nations and language communities of Europe. This is an opportunity to learn from each other, to share ideas and hopes, and to grow stronger together. All our cultures are under stress, our languages fighting back after centuries of oppression and prejudice, and yet they are the repository of immense cultural wealth. Hill-farming and island families are the custodians of nature, and the curators of the mountains. We celebrate culture in its broadest sense – language, poetry and music, visual arts, dance, crafts, heritage, animal husbandry and farming practice.

Our steering group is composed of:

  • Ana Andueza (animateur and administrator) Euskal Herria/ Basque Country
  • Jacob Bosma (museum director and community activist) Fryslan/ Netherlands
  • Siun Carden (lecturer and youth worker) Shetland/ Scotland)
  • Danny Kilbride (musician and organiser) Cymru/ Wales
  • Meic Llewellyn (writer and animateur) Cymru/ Wales
  • Dana McPhee (Woollen mill director) Alba/ Scotland
  • Beartla O’Flaihearta (arts & language support worker) Eire/ Ireland
  • Mairtin O’Flahartha (farmer and weaver) Eire/ Ireland
  • Vicky Street (Woollen mill director) Cymru/ Wales
  • Matthew Topsfield (Museum curator) Alba, Scotland
  • Slobodan Trkulja (musician and smallholder) Serbia.


To celebrate the cultures of shepherding and upland communities across Europe

To draw communities together through shared activities, and develop new understandings

To strengthen ties between farming families, artists and performers, the academic world and support agencies

To help generate new confidence in marginalized languages and cultures

To create and sustain partnerships and collaborations that will last for decades.


To encourage an exchange of unsolicited gifts between communities in 2022, opening lines of communication and preparing the way for future friendships & collaborations.  This objective was achieved by December 2022, with seven partners contributing.

To support a travelling exhibition “Erfskipo/ Our heritage” in 2023 and 2004 which will blend the arts, our wider culture and agriculture, raising awareness of our shared wealth and the challenges we all face.

To stimulate a range of other events and participatory activities throughout the life of the Erskip project to raise awareness and encourage involvement

To develop a music project in 2024 – 5 “Music from the Mountains” that will bring performers together and build an audience for our shared musical culture.TTo share the project’s activities in small communities and agricultural settings as well as galleries and arts spaces.

To arrange a series of reciprocal residencies involving younger farmers and performers from each culture, leading to a congress at the end of the process.

Cân y Bugail – our vision

Written down by Danny Kilbride.

Think of Europe. What is it? Cities, states, institutions? Bridges, highways and railways? Galleries, theatres and parks? Think again. Ask yourself who lives here, above you, outside your city, un-noticed but not forgotten? From the pillars of Hercules to the Arctic Circle and south to the Balkans, Europe is also people and their animals : sheep, goats, reindeer, cattle and horses.

We speak languages as old as the glaciers that formed our mountains, preserving a universal and diverse culture: a specific sense of the local and global from our lived experience. We are not peripheral. From our point of view we are at the centre of our worlds. You buy our wool, our meat, our cheeses, our wines and cider. We preserve a shared landscape and keep a memory alive that has greeted every new year under the open skies outlasting Rome, the wars of princes and kings, industry and the internet. We are poets, parents, artists, philosophers, dancers and lovers. Come, take our hands and sing with us!

Cân y Bugail is a phrase in Cymraeg – Welsh – the language of the western tip of Europe. In English it means “the shepherd’s song”. In 2007 Meic Llewellyn and Danny KilBride heard a CD of Corsican shepherd choirs in their office in Trallwng, mid-Wales and immediately heard a sound and culture similar to the shepherd Plygain choirs who only sing at midnight at the turn of the old, pre Roman year in the villages and churches in the valleys that surrounded them.

Since then they’ve been building networks of cultural activists and organisations who work with the original languages of Europe to bring this into being.

Now we are a group of committed partners in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Euskal Herria, Serbia and Fryslan, working to extend our reach across Europe. We are beginning a process of listening, sharing and building a celebration of Europe’s marginalised communities – hosted in farms and villages yet linked via the internet. Culture for us is not a thing to be defined, it’s a way of life, an expression of our humanity to be lived. It manifests itself in song, food, poetry, buildings and dances, in faith & debate, in sharing meanings with others and by stewarding a living network of relationships between people, animals, plants & land often expressed in languages that have themselves evolved in these landscapes.

We’re building networks and finding partners to deliver and stage a Europe-wide celebration of our culture. We’re holding these events in kitchens, village halls, community centres, fields, mountain tops and town squares. We’ll be commissioning new work that engages IT as well as more conventional performances and exhibitions. We’ll be challenging and re-inventing our traditions, eating and singing together, breaking bread and the barriers of art versus craft, high art and low culture and speaking to each other in as many tongues as there are people to speak them. Come and join us!


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