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The Celtic Connections festival started in 1994 in Glasgow, Scotland, and has since been held every January. Featuring over 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops, the festival focuses on the roots of traditional Scottish music and also features international folk, roots and world music artists. The festival is produced and promoted by Glasgow’s Concert Halls. Donald Shaw, a founding member of Capercaillie, is the current Celtic Connections Artistic Director, having been appointed to the role in 2006.
At the core of the festival is the Education Programme, which sees thousands of school children attend free morning concerts experiencing live music ranging from Burns to spiritual and blues. Celtic Connections also continues to foster new and young talent through its Young Tradition and New Voices series of concerts, and through the Danny Kyle Open Stage competition.
Every night of the festival, once the concerts are over, the late-night Celtic Connections Festival Club runs through to the small hours of the morning. No programme is announced in advance, and the club is renowned for one-off collaborations between musicians appearing at the festival.
Celtic Music Radio broadcasts in the Glasgow area on 1530 kHz and on http://www.celticmusicradio.net, and is based in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall during the festival. Celtic Music Radio broadcasts around 7 hours of live material from the venue every day. This includes interviews with performers, reviews and previews of gigs, and live coverage of concerts, including every act on the Danny Kyle Open Stage.
The Celtic Connections festival was founded by Colin Hynd in 1994 to fill a scheduling gap in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall's normally quiet post-Christmas period. The first festival took place in just one venue attracting around 32,000 people to attend.
In February 2004, Celtic Connections was presented with The Good Tradition Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in recognition of its exceptional contribution to traditional music and culture. The festival also recently picked up a Nordoff Robbins Tartan Clef Award.
In its 13th year (2006), over 100,000 people filled 10 venues seeing hundreds of artists brought to Glasgow from every part of the globe.
In 2008, Celtic Connections celebrated its 15th birthday, with festival attendances reaching 120,000 and events taking place across 14 venues throughout Glasgow over 19 days.
Celtic Connections brings in visitors from throughout the world and is an integral and vibrant part of cultural life in Glasgow, with the economic impact on the city reaching £5.8 million in 2007. The festival actively promotes artistic links and cultural exchange across countries, reinforced by Showcase Scotland which brought 200 music industry delegates from 35 different countries to Scotland looking to book Scottish bands for festivals abroad in 2008.
The 2008 festival opened with the Common Ground concert where many of the artists taking part in the event performed together. Donald Shaw, artistic director of the festival, spoke about the future of Celtic Connections as well as the 1,000+ acts and 300+ events taking place in 2008 exclusively online.
Celtic Connections 2009 ran from Thursday 15 January to Sunday 1 February, and featured performances from students on the BA Scottish Music course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Artists who have appeared at the festival in the past include Bob Delyn a'r Ebillion, Waiora, Julie Fowlis, Joan Baez, Bob Geldof, Clannad, Capercaillie, Kate Rusby, Sinéad O'Connor, Alison Krauss, Shane MacGowan, Runrig, Eddi Reader, Evelyn Glennie, Carlos Núñez, James Grant, Dougie MacLean, Billy Bragg, Blazin' Fiddles, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Mariza, Seth Lakeman, The Clan Gregor Society Pipe Band, k.d. lang, Steve Earle, Idlewild, Teenage Fanclub, Snow Patrol, Bert Jansch and Bernard Butler, Eilidh Steel and Mark Neal, Malinky, Fran Healy, Alan Stivell, Alison Brown, Anna Coogan and many more. In 2014 they included Mary Chapin Carpenter & Barbara Dickson Bobby Womack and Del Amitri with for the first time performances in the new 12,000-seat Hydro Arena. In 2016, Rhiannon Giddens and The Milk Carton Kids performed.
The focal point of the festival is the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, where performances take place in every space, from workshops in the foyers, to performances by world-class artists in the Main Auditorium. The Old Fruitmarket, City Halls, ABC, The Tron, The Piping Centre, The Classic Grand and The Tall Ship also regularly host Celtic Connections concerts.
The Celtic Connections festival has been broadcast on community radio station Celtic Music Radio 1530am in Glasgow. BBC Radio Scotland provides extensive coverage while many features have also been broadcast on Radio Borders. From 2013 It has also been broadcast on TD1 Radio, internet radio station in Galashiels. Highlights are broadcast on national station BBC Radio 2 and in BBC Alba's occasional series Cuirm @ Celtic.
- "UK | Scotland | Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West | Celtic Connections draws 120,000". BBC News. 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
- "Scotland". Scotlandontv.tv. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
- "Glasgow - News, views, gossip, pictures, video - Daily Record". Theglaswegian.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
- "Great Breton". The Scotsman. 2004-01-01. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
- "Artists". Celtic Connections. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
- TD1 Radio
- "BBC ALBA - Cuirm @ Celtic". BBC. Retrieved 2015-12-26.