The ‘Women in Piping’ concert from the 2020 Celtic Connections: Alana MacInnes, Enora Morice, Robyn Ada McKay and Jenn Butterworth. (Photo: Sean Purser.)

Glasgow’s annual Celtic Connections festival will go ahead in 2021 – digitally.

Europe’s largest winter music festival usually welcomes over 2,000 artists to take part in over 300 events each year. However, as with the rest of the world, plans have been turned on their head as the global pandemic continues to take hold.  

A spokesman said: “The Celtic Connections team, along with their funding supporters Glasgow Life, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government, have put together a digital-first festival in response to the current situation and the effect this has on the way music fans must now consume [sic] live music and entertainment. Their planning has also taken into account the impact the pandemic has had on the livelihoods of musicians, technical crews, venue staff and indeed the whole creative supply chain and they plan to work with as wide a pool of industry specialists as possible to support the sector in any way they can.”

In its digital format, Celtic Connections – the 28th annual event – will present concerts using an online platform every night between January 15-February 2. With the full programme set to be announced in early December, audiences can expect to see an array of the most well-known and best-loved acts that have traditionally graced the festival stages.

Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia at the 2020 Celtic Connections. (Photo: John Slavin).

“The very best of Scotland’s roots music has always sat at the heart of this international festival that unites and collaborates with cultures and musical talent from all over the world. This long-established connection and cultivation of the Scottish traditional music scene, alongside the recognition that Celtic Connections is a key driver in the development of Scotland’s cultural sector, has informed the decision that this digital-first festival will have a particular focus on talent from at home here in Scotland.”

Organisers have ensured that, although the majority of the line-up predominantly showcases homegrown talent, a number of international acts remotely filmed are also included in the line-up so that the essence of what the festival has grown to be truly about – connections, collaborations and relationships – is still prevalent in this new-era Celtic Connections.

Annually welcoming over 100,000 attendees to Glasgow – a UNESCO City of Music – organisers hope the festival’s digital-first programme will appeal to the wide international audience they traditionally see attending the festival. All shows to be available for a week after they are first streamed to alleviate any issues with different time zones enjoying the range of content. 

Donald Shaw.

Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, said: “One of the hardest consequences of the Covid virus for musicians this year has been the loss of live audiences in venues, so like many festivals we have had to look to an alternative way of presenting the Celtic Connections experience.

“In a world where so much is unknown it is vitally important that as a sector, we do all we can to ensure the longevity of Scotland’s culture. Sharing our music and our arts is a vital part of our human existence, it connects us as a nation both at home and abroad. We owe so much gratitude to our funding partners who have supported our plan to put together a festival that embraces and showcases Scotland’s culture whilst supporting both the artists and the supply chain that keep this sector running.”

The Scottish Government’s Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop said: “I take heart in these difficult times that Celtic Connections will return in 2021, and I would like to thank the team behind the festival for their vision and innovation. Celtic Connections has established itself as the beacon for Scotland’s traditional music, and I know its adaptation to a digital platform will still captivate audiences from across the world by bringing online performances and events into our homes.

“The Scottish Government has contributed £128,284 of EXPO funding towards creating unique digital concerts and performances, helping to support the fantastic Scottish and international artists who will showcase their work through this festival.”

Ticketing information and the full programme will be released in the coming weeks. All concerts will be recorded while fully adhering to social distancing guidelines and all current government guidance will be observed and followed.  

Celtic Connections began in 1994, when its 66 events centred around one venue, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and welcomed 27,000 attendees. Since those early days Celtic Connections has become more adventurous, more experimental and more diverse and now annually welcomes over 100,000 attendees and over 300 artists to Glasgow for over 2000 events. The diverse programme has traditionally included world-class concerts and one-off musical collaborations alongside talks, workshops, film screenings, theatre productions, ceilidhs, exhibitions, free events and late-night sessions.

• More information on ticketing and programming will be available on the Celtic Connections website in the coming weeks

Gary Smyth, organiser of the annual Kids with Cancer charity event, says next year’s fundraiser will be held online on a pay-per-view basis.

Says Gary: “We have decided due to the COVID-19 restrictions to hold our 2021 concert online. We will not be having a raffle or an auction at this event so I ask you to please support this concert from the comfort of your own home and help us raise money for the children and their families.”

The pipe bands, pipers and drummers contributing pre-recorded videos include Western Australia Police Pipe Band, Closkelt, Ravara, Stuart Liddell, Andrew Carlise, Robert Watt, Lincolm Hilton and Ryan Cupples-Menendez, Steven McWhirter, Steven Shedden and Gordon Brown.

Over the last three years this popular concert has raised over £30,000 for the Children’s Cancer Unit of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

The cost is £20.00 and payment can be sent via PayPal: