Celtic Connections is Scotland’s largest showcase for traditional music, dance and culture. The festival takes place across Glasgow every January and includes internationally renowned performers, new talent, workshops and ceilidhs.
Scotland's largest Celtic music festival
January sees the launch of the Celtic Connections, Scotland's largest Celtic music festival, kicking off 19 days and over 200 events of traditional musical celebrations in multiple venues across the city. This enormous festival attracts more than 100,000 revellers and brings over €4 million into the city economy.
Although focusing mainly on Scottish traditional music, the festival is truly international. Performers from the Celtic heartlands of Canada, USA, Brittany and Galicia regularly appear - and since 2003, the festival has begun to showcase Nordic music. To showcase these links the festival has created three concerts to recognise the relationships with fellow music festivals including Lorient (Brittany), Tønder (Denmark) and Celtic Colours (Canada).
The first Celtic Connections festival was held in 1994 to fill a scheduling gap in The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s winter season and to meet the growing demand for folk music. The very first Celtic Connections concert was from Scottish celtic-rockers Wolfstone with Ireland's Four Men and a Dog and Galicia's Dhais. Artists appearing in 1994 also included Dougie McLean, Altan, The Chieftains, De Danaan, The Boys of the Lough, The Battlefield Band and Sharon Shannon among others. 34,000 people gathered that yearat The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Since then, the festival has developed into a citywide celebration of Celtic music and culture.
Boosting Glasgow's economy: Celtic tourism and economic development
The success of the Celtic Connections festival is due not only to comprehensive programming, but the entire production team. Glasgow Cultural Enterprises (GCE) is the management company of The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and producer of the annual folk music festival.
Carefully considered programming ensures a great mix of big names, new talent and free events which in turn ensures there are festival events for everyone. Glasgow’s biggest and best festival costs roughly €1 million each year to run and is largely self-financed by ticket and merchandise sales. Yet, funding is also provided by the Public Sector and the Corporate Sector: the Glasgow City Council provides a grant for the festival as testament to the contribution it makes to the city, and over the last ten years, fifty companies have provided financial and in-kind support to Celtic Connections.
Since its beginnings, the festival has grown beyond all expectations. in 2004, more than 100,000 people attended the two weeks’ of events, compared with 34,000 in 1994. Independent research showed that half of all festival visitors came from outside Glasgow and that 15% were from outside Scotland altogether. During the festival over €4 million was pumped into the local economy, as fans booked tickets, hotel rooms and enjoyed Glasgow’s restaurants and nightlife.
Attending a performance at the 2004 Celtic Connections, Scottish Executive's Deputy Tourism Minister Dr Elaine Murray highlighted that "Traditional music is integral to Scotland's culture. This festival of the best in Celtic music celebrates excellence in traditional Scottish music and culture. (...) The success of this festival, which is now in its tenth year, demonstrates the demand for concerts and events in the Celtic tradition."
Keeping traditional music alive
Celtic Connections has always been committed to encouraging new and young talent to connect with traditional music. In February 2004 this was recognised by the prestigious Radio 2 Folk Awards who presented the festival with an award for Good Tradition acknowledging the part Celtic Connections has played in keeping traditional music in the Scotland alive.
Grassroots activities are important in order to develop both audiences and performers. Danny Kyle’s Open Stage is an integral part of the festival giving talented newcomers the opportunity to shine under the Celtic Connections spotlight. The finalists are invited to perform before an audience that includes festival organisers, promoters and other members of the music industry. Danny Kyle was the most passionate supporter of traditional music and constant campaigner for its revival in Scotland. Celtic Connections further nurtures new talent through staging "New Voices"and the BBC Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year.
Over 80,000 children have taken part in Celtic Connections' Education Programme since 1998. The Education Programme consists of free concerts and school visits during the January Festival, and residencies in schools at other times in the year. Public workshops give people the opportunity to learn new musical skills in both modern and traditional instruments. Festival guests and professional musicians visit two dozen Glasgow schools to sing, dance, tell stories and deliver hands-on sessions where pupils can try traditional instruments. That experience connects Glasgow’s children with Scottish traditional culture and adds to their knowledge and skills, helping to boost their self-confidence.
Showcase Scotland: promoting Scottish music to the world
Showcase Scotland is the largest gathering of the international music community in the Scottish calendar. Organised by Celtic Connections, The Scottish Arts Council and The British Council, Showcase Scotland provides a platform of the best of Scottish music and presents them to delegates from the international music circuit. The event is a chance for promoters, record labels, agents and the press to meet both the Scottish industry and each other.
The range of talent in the Scottish music scene is wider and richer than ever with artists performing music from varied traditions and influences. The Showcase Scotland weekend has proven highly valuable in promoting Scottish music overseas and directly benefits the artists who gain international exposure and the opportunity to meet the people who can help them build a career beyond the Scottish shores. The event is free to international delegates and the weekend consists of bands and performers, seminars and discussions, receptions and networking, album launches, trade fair, trips, sightseeing and fun.
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