And so farewell...

​And so, as an eerie quiet settles upon the Concert Hall, and upon hundreds of darkened rooms in musicians’ and music-lovers’ homes across Glasgow, we say farewell – with fondness, sadness, but also maybe a tinge of relief – to Celtic Connections 2017. After all, any more than 18 days (and, more to the point, nights) would surely spell the end of us, not the festival. Which admittedly doesn’t make the Monday after any less painful, particularly for those admirable stalwarts who saw the last night right through till broad daylight. (You’ll know who most of them are from Seán Purser’s wonderful smiley ‘Heids’ photo-galleries.)
Our own mental snapshots (in more than one sense) and other snippets from Sunday’s last blast include, in no particular order:
Hearing how one young Glasgow-based diehard had decided that anything resembling a full night’s sleep was for wimps, instead slotting in 1-2 hour power-naps throughout the day and evening, between several different engagements for pub sessions and performances.
Festival Club host’s Kevin Macleod’s utter delight at being presented with a year’s supply (at least) of Hai Karate aftershave: he’d had no idea it was still available, but a grateful fan had hunted down an online source especially as a final-night gift. (For those of you too young to remember, Hai Karate was a budget-priced 1970s/80s men’s ‘fragrance’ – a rival to the likes of Brut, Denim and Pagan Man– whose ads featured its wearers karate-chopping lust-crazed women away, under the strapline, “Be careful how you use it”. We didn’t notice Kevin needing to deploy any such tactics on Sunday, so presumably he’s keeping it for really special occasions.
Ímar’s Mohsen Amini, during the band’s suitably pyrotechnic club performance, extending his description in their website biog, as being almost certainly the only “Anglo-Iranian Scot playing Irish music on the concertina”, with the addition of headbanging, whole-body playing, and nearly-falling-off-his-chair-in-a-frenzy to his list of “surely unique” attributes: we’ve certainly never seen a concertina punished like it.
Also at the club, Laura Wilkie sitting neatly and apparently contentedly inside the green-room fridge, amid the artists’ supplies of Tennents and cheap wine: you would need to ask her how she ended up there, but it certainly appeared to be wholly voluntary, and care was being taken to ensure she didn’t run out of air.
And finally, of course, the one and only Mr Macleod taking the stage around 2.30am with his rarely-seen but seasoned covers combo, Not Big Not Klevir, for the traditional closing selection of emphatically non-folk material. Though that does of course depend on your definition, given the rousing audience singalongs as Kevin belted out those classic pop/rock hits, this time indulging his metalhead proclivities with a couple of Status Quo and Led Zep numbers, complete with accompanying dodgy/old-school ‘duck-wing’ dancing from the surrounding throng onstage.
As is equally customary, said throng included many of the core Celtic team and our invaluable volunteers, including Jade Hewat, Lesley Shaw (on keys) and Mikaela Atkins from the press office, as well as myriad musicians (eg Paddy Callghan and Adam Brown on backing vocals) – and all the while, amid all the valedictory uproar, on a bench at the side, there slumped one poor puggled punter, fast asleep. I’m sure the Club’s security were gentle with him when the time came: their patience and good humour was outstanding throughout all three weekends.
After that, the festivities moved on mainly to a certain nearby hotel’s 24-hour bar – but for further details, we’ll have to refer you again to Mr Purser’s images, as we bodyswerved in favour of a final quietish nightcap at the Holiday Inn.
The extremity of Monday blues subsequently afflicting some of those once-happy souls was pithily distilled in a few of the ringleaders’ Facebook posts. “Broken. Celtic Connections you beast”, at least contains an arguable note of rueful affection, as does “Celtic Connections was glorious. Today is not” – though the second poster’s appended screenshot, of a Google search for ‘how to conquer the fear’, rather undermines it. “Fear and loathing in Knightswood”, however, tells its own unadulterated (or perhaps thoroughly over-adulterated) story.
Miraculously, though, it ain’t over yet for our unfeasibly tireless Artistic Director, Donald Shaw, who departed early Monday to keep at least some of the festival going in roadshow form, as the Transatlantic Sessions headed off on a five-date UK tour: gluttons for punishment or what?
And did you see those final stats?! In the course of Celtic Connections 2017, some 2,375 musicians, from 50 countries, performed across 26 stages, performances adding up to no less than 800 hours of music: that’s over 33 days’ worth. Out of 222 ticketed events, just a fraction under 80 percent were sold out, contributing to a total attendance that topped 110,000. Between our Schools Concerts and outreach workshops, 11,000 Scottish children took part in this year’s Education Programme, together with over 1100 adult participants in more than 60 weekend workshops. What a fantastic foundation from which to approach next year’s 25th festival – and none of it would be possible without your presence and support, for which we wholeheartedly thank you all.
But for now, until then – that’s a wrap, folks. And so to bed. . . .