Celtic Connections celebrated its most successful year to date as the festival drew to a close yesterday. Attendances reached over 110,000 and gross ticket sales topped £1.15million, Celtic Connections 2014 really was the biggest and best yet.
The middle weekend saw a record number of people attending the festival – on Friday 24th January just fewer than 14,500 people attended a Celtic Connections show, while Saturday 25th January saw 10,500 bums on seats at the festival – this tallies to 25,000 attendances within 48 hours.
Over 18 days in January and February, 2000 artists from around the globe descended on Glasgow. Highlights of Celtic Connections 2014 included two of the festival’s gigs taking place at Scotland’s new landmark arena, the SSE Hydro.
Del Amitri took to the stage of the Hydro on Friday 24th January and blew away the biggest crowd Celtic Connections has seen to date. The night after festival fans were treated to an International Burns Night again at the Hydro with a stellar line-up including The Mahotella Queens, Karine Polwart, Dougie MacLean, Rachel Sermanni and Salsa Celtica. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra were in residence for the night. There was also a very special tribute to Seamus Heaney by John Spillane and Bongani Tembe paid a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Other festival highlights included: Imelda May, Capercaillie, Bobby Womack, Amadou & Mariam, Lúnasa, AR Rahman & Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Mogwai, Peatbog Faeries, Julie Fowlis, Elephant Revival, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Manu Dibango, Treacherous Orchestra, Shawn Colvin, Nicola Benedetti, Stockton's Wing, The Gloaming, Lau, Suzanne Vega, Seth Lakeman, RANT, Boban Marković Orchestra, Alkinoos Ioannidis, The Olllam, Bill Callahan, De Temps Antan, RM Hubbert, Lloyd Cole & the Leopards, Kathleen MacInnes, Tim Finn, Dick Gaughan and The Stray Birds.Music fans attended approximately 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops, which took place in nearly 20 venues across Glasgow over 18 days in January.
The festival is renowned for its ambitious programme of one-off shows, world exclusive performances and unique collaborative events. The 2014 line-up explored the connections between Celtic music and cultures across the globe, bringing musicians from all over the world to Glasgow, with acts from as far afield as Australia, India, South Africa, Mali, Malawi, Cuba and Jamaica as well as across Europe, the USA and Canada.
Celtic Connections continues to have an international appeal and enhance Glasgow’s reputation as a major tourist destination. Fans visited from all corners of the globe to experience the best in traditional, folk, roots, world and indie music. In 2013 Celtic Connections saw an increase in visitors from outwith Scotland, with 14.6% of the audience visiting from the rest of the UK and 4% coming from overseas. 44% of festival fans accompanied their visit to Celtic Connections with an overnight stay, a few stayed with friends but the majority at 69% stayed in a Hotel or Guest House or B&B. An impressive 70% of visitors stated that attending Celtic Connections was their sole or main reason for visiting Glasgow and 77% said they had also attended Celtic Connections in 2012. A fantastic 99.8% said they would come back to the festival in the future. Festival fans attended an average of 4.7 events.
Sold-out shows included Celtic Connections Opening Concert with Nicola Benedetti, Capercaillie 30th Anniversary Concert, Julie Fowlis, Cherish the Ladies, We Banjo 3 with Chessboxer, Rab Noakes, Mogwai, Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott, Imelda May, De Temps Antan, Karan Casey, Suzanne Vega, Flook with Mairearad and Anna, Lewis Psalm Singers, Ceolas and Rachel Sermanni and of course the hugely popular Transatlantic Sessions, which is now touring, bringing a dazzling international cast of Celtic and Americana musicians to concert halls across the UK following its sell-out success over two nights in Glasgow.
The reach and engagement of the festival's social media was outstanding this year. The Celtic Connections Facebook page topped 20,000 likes and Twitter followers now stand at over 12,000. Artists also interacted with the festival through their own social media networks – with AR Rahman posting that he was at Celtic Connections to his 16.5 million supporters on Facebook.
The middle weekend of Celtic Connections also featured a major showcase of Scottish music, with 214 international music industry delegates from over 29 countries in town to sample the cream of Scottish musical talent performing as part of Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections. The largest gathering of the international music community in Scotland, Showcase Scotland provides acts with the opportunity to perform in front of promoters, record labels and agents from countries all over the world. The exposure that artists gain can lead to record deals and overseas touring contracts, promoting Scottish music and artists to new audiences around the world.
The Celtic Connections Education Programme celebrated a successful 17th year, with high profile festival acts including Treacherous Orchestra and Mairearad & Anna performing free concerts for school-children in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
Every year at Celtic Connections the cream of new musical talent perform at the Danny Kyle Open Stage. A diverse panel of judges – from industry stalwarts to members of the general public – then picked six winners from the eighty acts which took part. The Danny Kyle Open Stage 2014 winners – all of whom will perform a support slot at next year’s festival – Hò Rò, Griogair Morrison, The Mischa Macpherson trio, The Chaplins, Arthur Nicholson and Austen George.
Donald Shaw, Celtic Connections Artistic Director, said: “Celtic Connections 2014 really has been the biggest and best yet. It was really exciting to showcase the festival at the SSE Hydro and attendances have once again been fantastic, topping 110,000 for the first year ever. I would like to say a special thanks to the amazing artists who travelled all the way from Australia and India to be part of the festival - they definitely added an extra special element this year.
“Each January we endeavour to bring exciting new sounds to Glasgow and we’ve seen some world class performances over the past 18 days. As well as featuring an array of international acts we’ve celebrated the vibrancy of the Scottish folk scene, which still remains the driving force behind the festival.”
Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Celtic Connections has brought some of the worlds finest musicians to the city of Glasgow over the past eighteen days. The festival has drawn people from around the globe to attend this internationally renowned event.
“This year, Glasgow Life and Celtic Connections brought a taste of the festival to thousands of school-children with an impressive Education and Outreach Programme. Celtic Connections is of immense value to Glasgow, economically and culturally, and we’re proud to say 2014 has been the most successful year yet.”