Celtic Connections 2008 came to a close tonight, after an extremely successful 15th festival. This was the festival’s second year of principal sponsorship with international energy company ScottishPower.
With approximately 120,000 attendances at Celtic Connections 2008, many events at this year’s festival sold out, including Steve Earle, k.d.lang, Teenage Fanclub, Peatbog Faeries, Capercaillie, Skipinnish Showcase and Dick Gaughan’s 60th Birthday concert. The festival started and ended with sell-out shows in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, with a full house for the opening concert Common Ground and the festival finale Transatlantic Sessions.
Festival fans attended 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops, which took place in 14 venues across Glasgow over 19 days in January and February.
Festival organizers succeeded in creating a diverse and ambitious program; in addition to staging top traditional music and celebrating home-grown talent, Celtic Connections further explored the links between Celtic and world music. The festival connected with a wide range of musical genres, including classical, blues, Americana and jazz. Celtic Connections 2008 brought musicians from all over the world to Glasgow, and acts from as far afield as Senegal, India, Serbia, Croatia, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Russia as well as Canada and the USA have appeared in Glasgow over the past 19 days.
This year, Celtic Connections was privileged to stage the world premiere of Ronald Stevenson’s epic symphony Praise of Ben Dorain, as well as a one-off performance by Senegalese singing sensation Baaba Maal, and the opening nights of both k.d. lang’s and Steve Earle’s world tours.
Celtic Connections Artistic Director, Donald Shaw, said: “This year we wanted to expand the musical boundaries of the festival even more, particularly through the world music strand, and we’re really happy that it’s proved so successful.
“It’s great that people come to Glasgow in the middle of winter, not just from Scotland but from all over the world, to attend the festival.
“One of my own personal highlights from this year’s festival was Baaba Maal’s brilliant performance – the fact that such a great world music star flew over to Glasgow from Africa with his 15-piece band just for this one-off concert says a lot about the festival, and about Glasgow’s reputation as a great place for live music.”
The Celtic Connections Education Programme enjoyed a successful 10th anniversary. This year 15,000 school children from all over Scotland attended 9 free concerts at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, with many of them experiencing live music for the first time at the festival. The festival launched with an education concert featuring John McCusker and friends (all of whom performed in Common Ground that evening), with the performance inspiring Mexican waves and lots of dancing. The Unusual Suspects, Josh White, Jr. and Alison Brown were amongst other acts performing in schools concerts.
The festival enjoyed a second year working with principal sponsor ScottishPower. The international energy company has been actively involved in Celtic Connections throughout the past nineteen days, with the ScottishPower Pipe Band taking part in the opening torchlit procession which launched the festival.
Stephen Dunn, ScottishPower’s Corporate Services Director, said:“We at ScottishPower are extremely pleased to help Celtic Connections keep live performance accessible, and to keep the deep traditions of our music alive. The unique collaborations that this year’s festival has achieved have been quite remarkable.”
Once again, 200 international music industry delegates from over 35 different countries attended the festival to sample the cream of Scottish musical talent at Showcase Scotland 2008. Showcase Scotland is the largest gathering of the international music community in Scotland, and ran for five days during Celtic Connections in what was its ninth year. Showcase Scotland has announced that their international partner for 2009 will be Quebec, with acts from Quebec being showcased at the event.
Colin Hicks, Director of the Cultural Services Quebec Government Office in London, said:“As a culmination of the 400th anniversary celebrations Quebec are delighted to be the international partners for Showcase Scotland 2009, particularly in the year of Homecoming Scotland. Quebec’s relations with Scotland are already exceptionally strong and we are confident that this collaboration will take us even further down the road of artistic collaboration and exchange.”
Bethan Nia, Debra Salem, Maggie Adamson, Neil Ewart and Suzanne Houston, John Langan and Feolta are the winners of the Danny Kyle Open Stage 2008. The six successful acts were presented with their awards by Culture Minister Linda Fabiani tonight after they performed at the final night showcase concert. Every year at Celtic Connections the Danny Kyle Open Stage offers up-and-coming talent the chance to compete to win a support slot at next year’s festival.
Celtic Connections continues to attract visitors from all over the world, expanding the international profile of the city as a tourist destination and affirming Glasgow’s place on the cultural map. The results of an economic impact survey (carried out at the 2007 festival) revealed that Celtic Connections generated a total of £6.9million of new output to Scotland.
Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival is recognized not only as the premiere Celtic festival in the United Kingdom but also as one of the largest winter music festivals of its kind and a major event in the folk and world music calendar.
Celtic Connections 2009 will run from Wednesday 14th January – Sunday 1st February 2009.
Photo: Peatbog Faeries