Joe Alexander reports on the birth of a major new festival of Celtic folk and traditional music in Glasgow.
January is the dead zone. The battered and bruised consumer has staggered through another Christmas and New Year. endured the blandishrnents of the sales. and wants only to curl up and be left alone. Nobody puts on gigs in January. far less chooses to launch a major new festival.
Until now. The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall have opted to buck the trend in a big way with their Celtic Connectirms season. a massive new folk festival
which springs out of nowhere. The hall has featured a
number of big-name folk acts (usually with good box-office response) since they opened. but never on this kind of scale.
And we are talking big here; big names. and in large
helpings. From the opening night bash with Scottish folk-rockers Wolfstone and lrish ranters Four Men And A Dog in the main hall. and Dick Gaughan and Sileas in the Strathclyde Suite. to a closing flourish with Capercaillie, The Whistlebinkies and lrish accordion wiz Sharon Shannon. the programme is crammed with serious names from across the spectrum of Celtic folk styles.
‘The festival really grew out oftalks between Cameron McNicol. the Director of the Concert Hall. and BBC Radio Scotland.‘ says the GRCH‘s Colin Hynd. ‘The initial batch of names they suggested were fairly traditional. and we set about trying to broaden the scope of the festival by bringing in some of the younger players and bands.‘
‘January is maybe an unusual time to run a major event, but in all honesty we didn’t have a great deal of choice.’
Names? Well. there’s The Chieftains. Aly Bain. Davey Spillane. Kathryn Tickell. Altan. De Dannan. Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Dougie McLean. June Tabor. Mary Coughlan. Martin Stephenson. Frances Black. Dolores Keane. Fairport Convention. Ceolbeg. Stockton's Wing. Boys OfThe Lough. Battleﬁeld Band. Mac-talla. and The McCluskey
Brothers. Among others. The selection process. Hynd
admits. was inclusive rather than plotted around any central programming strategy.
‘We wanted to represent Celtic and Gaelic culture as widely as possible. and the festival also had to be put together very quickly. We hope that we have
covered a lot of ground. and that we will attract quite
a few different audiences across the two weeks. We haven‘t really done anything like this before. but we are planning to run similar events in [995 and I996. and then take it from there, so it is a long-term investment for us.
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‘Januat'y is maybe an unusual time to run a major event. but in all honesty. we didn‘t have a great deal ofehoice. The only other time of the year we could have staged it would haye been July or August. and there are already plenty of things happening around that time. It might be a bit ofgamble. but it means that the Concert Hall will be alive with events at a traditionally quiet period. and we are hoping that people will respond to being given something that they can come and see.‘
In addition to the concerts. which will occupy three different stages. with the main auditorium for the biggest names. the Strathclyde Suite (rigged out with tables and bar in cabaret style rather than regimented ranks ofchairs) for tnore intimate acts. and the Exhibition Hall for lesser or up-and-coming attractions. the festiyal will also include a range of exhibitions. talks. and even a fashion show.
It is an ambitious undertaking (with no major sponsor to underwrite it. either. although the BP-
l i l
FENN O DAWSON O AD ACOUSTICS O ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
Well-connected Celts: Clockwise from top left June Tabor. Dick Gaunhan and Capercaillio
backed Scottish Wildlife have provided some support). and it remains to be seen if the paying public can muster both the enthusiasm and the cash to make a success of it. Its artistic success. on the other hand. is practically guaranteed. but it will be
The programme is jammed with serious names from across the spectrum at Celtic styles.
interesting to see whether future events attempt more thematic programming. or stick to the ‘everybody who is anybody‘ mode. Either way. there is no doubt that these are interesting times on the folk scene. Ccltt'c Connections runs at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hal/from 9-23 January. Sec Folk listings
for details: afull programme is arailal2l¢fnmr t/tc
The List l7 December l993—l3 January I994 41