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47


Clockwise from top left: Toumani Diabate*, Songs Of Separation, Rhiannon Giddens*, Boys Of The Lough, Daimh. (*pics by Judith Burrows)


Connectivity


It’s Celtic Connections director Donald Shaw’s tenth year in the hot seat. Sarah Coxson finds out his philosophy for this massive event.


P


eople make Glasgow: a trite marketing slogan for a city per- haps, but hard to disagree when you visit the city for its flagship Celtic Connections festival. Testi- mony to its open-minded and big-hearted spirit, the uplifting clan gathering has offered a winter-warming eighteen days of music each January since 1994 – and with a core, homegrown city audience.


“I love the buzz of the community of musicians and the city. I often say when peo- ple try to praise the festival that the biggest praise for this festival needs to go to Glas- gow – the city and its audiences” says Don- ald Shaw, in his tenth year as Artistic Direc- tor in 2016. “I’m constantly applauding their passion and commitment to scenarios where perhaps they have very little idea about what they are going to witness when coming to a festival event. The city and the festival have given us this blessing to be ambitious and creative as possible.”


Less easily marketed as ‘festival experi- ence’ weekends like WOMAD, the success of this wildly sprawling beastie of a festival is no mean feat, with its individually ticketed events at multiple venues, with concerts, ceilidhs, talks, exhibitions, workshops, late night sessions and one-off musical collabo- rations featuring over 2000 musicians from across the world. But successful it is, with over 100,000 visitors to the event and gross ticket sales topping £1.1 million in 2015! But beyond the financial coffers, as important is the sense of camaraderie, well-being and creativity the event engenders; the late- night carousing, the meeting of musical minds, the pioneering adventures…


Considered by musicians and promoters to be a ‘high profile shop window’, Celtic Connections is regarded widely as a desir- able performance platform by artists and as a trusted ‘brand’ by audiences. “We try to be the vehicle for artists to realise their musical aspirations,” continues Shaw, “I think musicians try to raise their game and


create new ideas here, and we have really good audiences on our side, who will come out. When we put on something that is a bit out there, it will be supported.”


The event is more than the sum of its Celtic parts. With its backbone of traditional Scottish folk and roots music covering every- thing from the pure drop to all manner of blends – “from very pure ballad singers like Jimmy Hutchison or Sheena Wellington to progressive artists like Lau” – the reach of the festival has always included similar styles from other Celtic regions and Eng- land. This year, homegrown headliners like Boys Of The Lough and Aly Bain & Phil Cun- ningham sit alongside developing artists like Siobhan Wilson and The Elephant Ses- sions. Legendary Irish icons such as Moving Hearts, Altan and The Chieftains rub shoul- ders with “Dublin folk miscreants” Lynched. And from over other UK borders, 9Bach, The Unthanks, Olivia Chaney, Sam Lee and This Is The Kit all represent the cutting edge of Welsh and English roots.


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