The Celtic Connections 2019 programme was launched last night which includes a tribute night to John Martyn, performances from John Grant, Karine Polwart, Aidan O’Rourke, Aidan Moffat and Icelandic band amiina, as rich and diverse a programme as we have seen over the last few years.

Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for the festival spoke to The Fountain about what makes it so special to be involved in this festival as well as some of his personal highlights for 2019.

TF: So the Celtic Connections has been long established, over 25 years of running, how does it feel to be involved in the 2019 programme?

It’s great being involved with such a world-renowned festival. Celtic Connections is the largest winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of celtic music. It takes place in January every year and welcomes over 2,100 artists to perform in 300 events across the city of Glasgow.

Each year the eighteen days of entertainment brightens up the dark January nights with a mixture of concerts that include a host of one-off musical collaborations alongside talks, workshops, film screenings, theatre productions, ceilidhs, art exhibitions, free events and late-night sessions.

TF: And when you look back over the years that it has been running and the artists involved, there must be a tingling sensation to know that you are involved in all of this?

The festival started in 1994 when it centred around the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. At its inaugural festival there was 66 events in one venue with attendances of 27,000, now there are over 300 events across twenty-six stages and last year we had an attendance figure of over 130,000, which really is amazing.

Our small, hard-working team are all really passionate about continuing to develop the festival to its fullest potential as we look forward to the coming years (Celtic Connections has a core team of only four people and doesn’t expand to more than fifteen staff during the festival itself.) Year on year we all work really hard on a very tight budget to ensure the longevity and musical integrity of the festival is at the core of what we do.

TF: What can we look forward to with the 2019 Programme? Can you mention some of the highlights?

There is so much to see at Celtic Connections 2019, everything is listed online so please do go on and have a look!

Some of my personal highlights for next year’s festival include Karine Polwart and Kris Drever with Scottish Chamber Orchestra on the 27th January, Brave in Concert on the 19th, also Moonlight Benjamin on the 19th, Grace & Danger: A Celebration of John Martyn on the 27th January, Roaming Roots Revue: Abbey Road 50th on Sunday 20 January, Mariza on Monday 21 January and Niteworks: ‘Comann’ with Special Guests on the 26th January. There’s also Bokanté with Milestone on Saturday 2 February, The Bard’s Tale: Live Premiere on 31st January, Josie Duncan: ‘The Final Shift’ and Symbio also on the 31st.

TF: And I’ve noticed year on year that you have expanded your programme, what exciting strands can we look forward to in January?

After last year’s 25th celebrations, when the festival recognised how far the Scottish Music Scene has come in the last quarter of a century as well as paying homage to the stalwarts who began the resurgence, Celtic Connections 2019 will consolidate the vibrant new music strands evolving from a new generation of musicians; music that defies any kind of genre category but explores the role of folk music as a universal language. This series of concerts is entitled ‘Above the Surface’ and they are supported through the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund.

We are also showcasing a number of shows under a ‘Folk Images’ theme with a number of concerts involving audio-visuals and even one involving gaming. Within this strand we will be doing a world premiere of Brave in Concert – the computer-animated fantasy adventure film will be screened live in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall while the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform Patrick Doyle’s iconic score. The multi award-winning film will be further brought to life with solo performances from Chris Stout, Lorne MacDougall, Jim Sutherland and Jarlath Henderson, all of whom appeared on the original soundtrack.

Another theme is ‘Celtic Cousins’, with a number of shows celebrating music from Galicia (our Showcase Scotland partner), the Basque Country, Wales and Ireland.

TF: What are some of your personal highlight? What is it about working for Celtic Connections that makes your job exciting?

Every day is completely different! There are a number of shows I am really looking forward to seeing at Celtic Connection 2019 but one I’m particularly looking forward to is Grace & Danger: A Celebration of John Martyn which takes place in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 27th January. The night will celebrate the man himself as we mark the 10th anniversary of his passing. The line-up will include John Martyn’s original band – long-time friend and double bass titan Danny Thompson (who is also MD for the evening), master bass guitarist Alan Thomson, Martyn’s local keyboards player Foster Paterson and drummer Arran Ahmun with special guests including Paul Weller, Lucy Rose, Eddi Reader, Ross Wilson, Rory Butler, Eric Bibb, John Smith, Katie Spencer and the Greg Lawson string section.

The Celtic Connections 2019 begins on 17th January until 3rd February 2019.