Bothy Culture & Beyond

​“There were times,” admits Celtic Connections’ artistic director Donald Shaw, “when I did wonder if we’d finally bitten off more than we could chew with this one.”
“This one,” of course, was last night’s Bothy Culture and Beyond extravaganza at the Hydro, recreating and celebrating the late Martyn Bennett’s second album. The cast included 80-odd musicians in the GRIT Orchestra, led by composer/conductor Greg Lawson, together with Niteworks, Sian, Julie Fowlis, aerialist dancers, a massive stage set based on Skye’s Black Cuillin Ridge, stunning visual projections and prodigious stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill, plus teammate, riding, jumping, balancing and even somersaulting along a specially-constructed circuit around the arena, across the stage and right up the replica Inaccessible Pinnacle. Being responsible for that little lot would be enough to give anyone the fear – but when the sellout 6000-strong audience rose as one to their feet at the end, amid deafening applause, the sense of vindication (along with relief) must have been sweet indeed.
Among those in the crowd, and paying tribute on social media afterwards, were some variously well-kent faces, including Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop (“Spectacular”), Patrick Grady MP (“A triumph”), James Grant (“Unbelievable. Supernal. Beautiful.”) and a particularly enthusiastic Phil Jupitus, who successively tweeted, “I can’t b****y wait for this tonight”; “There’s something life-affirming about a full orchestra playing breakbeats”, and finally, “I f***ing love Greg Lawson” – all this after he’d previously confessed, “The vibe at Celtic Connections is making me want to fulfil my ambition of having a dairy farm based techno tribute group called Udderworld.”
Author and journalist Lesley Riddoch meanwhile observed, “Surely largest ever indoor Scots/Gaelic gig. Huge demand for our own culture only waiting for auditorium big enough.” And another audience member summed up the general feeling when he wrote, “There are insufficient superlatives to do justice to this gig. A truly historic night.” (Although according to one gentleman overheard in the standing area, “It would have been much better having it at the Concert Hall.” Quite how he thought that venue would accommodate the cycling, the aerialists, the mountain or indeed the audience remains best known to himself.)
The show – one of 16 main concerts last night, including several other sellouts - was duly followed by a suitably monstrous after-party back at the Holiday Inn Theatreland, amongst whose highlights was a mouthwatering session featuring Bruce Molsky and his Mountain Drifters, Sierra Hull and sundry other luminaries. Poor Donald Shaw, however, had to duck out early, as he was due on Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday at 8am – although quite what he had to contribute to its stated mix of “easy listening music and spiritually minded discussion”, we’ll need to consult the iPlayer to find out.
There’s a couple of guys in town just now, on a job for their Liverpool-based employer, who had no idea what Celtic Connections was or that it was on, but are booked into the same Holiday Inn from last Tuesday until next Friday. They enjoyed a dander to Folkytown, at the Flying Duck, the night they arrived, then propped up the hotel bar until closing time – and were seen looking decidedly broken the following evening, having had to report for work at 9am, then spend the day in the fridge-like temperatures of a computer server room, doing complex technological things. Being apparently quite partial to a bit of Celtic music, however, they’ve been getting well into the festival swing ever since, spotted among the after-show crowd most nights. They also happened across another of Glasgow’s distinctive cultural attractions on Friday, when they returned to the Flying Duck for a change of scene. The doorman there - eyeing them with a degree of concern – enquired, “Are you with the Celtic crowd?”, and upon being answered in the affirmative, explained, “We have different things on different nights, you see – and tonight it’s Drag Karaoke.” Nothing daunted, our two friends carried on in, but didn’t stay long this time, finding themselves somewhat freaked out by the gender-neutral toilet policy.