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One final fling...

And the winner is. . . Robyn Stapleton!! The Scots singer from Stranraer has just been named as Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2014, triumphing in a contest where, as chair of judges David Francis put it, there was less than a cigarette paper’s breadth of discrepancy between the talent and technique on display. The deciding factor, he said, was choosing the performer who most made the music their own. Robyn will be making the customary winner’s appearance at the Festival Club later on, before continuing to celebrate the start of a life-changing year.
 
The soundscape at the Holiday Inn took a decidedly surreal turn during yesterday, what with a wedding booked in where the House of Song usually happens, so there were fiddle tunes to the left of me, ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ to the right – but then came the Celtic connection, as the DJ put on ‘Stuck In the Middle With You’, co-written of course by the one and only Gerry Rafferty, whose music was so memorably celebrated at the festival in 2012.
 
The last wedding guests were long gone, however, by the time the post-Festival Club invasion arrived at the hotel for last orders – only to find the place already so rammed with folkies that the main session was taking place just inside the front door, with most players sitting on the floor. It was a decidedly slow sweep-out once the bar was finally closed: imagine a kind of blissed-out human glacier, imperceptibly propelled towards the outside world by the hotel staff – for some of whom, incidentally, a ‘part-time’ schedule during Celtic Connections has amounted to about 70 hours a week.
 
Things were starting to get messy at the Club as the festival’s final Saturday night reached fever pitch – literally messy, as a seeming epidemic of pint-dropping saw the floor covered in spilled beer and shattered safety-glass. One young lady was so miraculous that she was missing her own hands as she tried to clap along; another was only able to dance by propping her elbows on a ledge to keep her upright – but as this suggests, the music once again was mighty indeed, including sets from Mairearad & Anna’s big band, yet another line-up fronted by the indomitable Ross Couper, under the name Jakes On a Plane, and finally the very wonderful Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys, all the way from Canada’s Prince Edward Island, mixing up swing, rockabilly and old-time dance tunes with some dazzlingly fancy percussive footwork and oodles of exuberant showmanship.
 
Ahead of tonight’s Shinty’s Heroes show at the Mitchell Theatre tonight, Celtic Connections hosted an important moment in the Scottish sporting calendar earlier today at the Concert Hall, as Donald Shaw and Phil Cunningham drew the names for the first round of shinty’s biggest prize, the Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup. For those who follow this other beautiful game, the opening matches on May 3rd will feature Glenorchy v Skye, Glasgow Mid Argyll v Fort William, Beauly v Oban Camanachd, Bute v Taynuilt, Strachur v Kilmallie, Caberfeidh v Kilmory, Strathglass v Inverness and Ballachulish v Oban Celtic.
Lastly, headline figures released today confirm what many festival-goers have sensed over the last two and a half weeks: 20 years on from the first, this was indeed the biggest, busiest and most successful Celtic Connections yet, with total attendances reaching over 110,000, amounting to gross ticket sales of more than £1.15million. Heartfelt congratulations and thanks all round.