GLASGOW’S biggest music festival has posted its best ever box office results to round off its 20th birthday celebrations.
Ticket sales at Celtic Connections reached a record high of £1.15 million as the event recorded a string of sell-out gigs at venues across the city.
An overall attendance of more than 110,000 is expected to be recorded once the final ticket sales have been calculated.
The event – which is worth an estimated £10m to the Scottish economy – has broken the £1m mark for ticket sales for the seventh year in a row, with soul singer Bobby Womack, Bollywood composer AR Rahman, indie instrumentalists Mogwai, American singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega and reformed Glasgow band Del Amitri among the star attractions this year.
A staggering 25,000 festival-goers attended events in the festival’s middle weekend, when Celtic Connections staged its biggest ever concerts at the new Hydro arena on the city’s waterfront.
However, the festival’s artistic director Donald Shaw told The Scotsman the event would still have recorded its best box office results even if Del Amitri’s reunion concert at the Hydro, which attracted almost 9,000 fans, and a gala Burns Night event were excluded from the calculations.
He said the festival, which lasts just over a fortnight, was now set to expand next year when its main venue, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, is fully operational again after its ongoing refurbishment.
The festival, which was launched in 1994 as a way to fill a quiet period in the Concert Hall’s calendar, is also expected to use the new Reid Building at Glasgow School of Art in 2015, after plans to deploy it as this year’s late-night club venue were scuppered by late-running building work.
He revealed plans to stage a huge “open day or weekend” at the refurbished Concert Hall to give more members of the public a taste of the event.
Over 2,000 artists – including the festival’s biggest ever contingent of overseas guests, from locations including Australia, Cuba, Jamaica, South Africa, the United States and Québec – took part in the festival.
Around a fifth of the event’s audience comes from outwith Scotland, with 15 per cent visiting from the rest of the UK and five per cent from overseas.
The programme included a major music industry convention, Showcase Scotland, which attracted 214 delegates from 29 different countries.
Among the hottest tickets at this year’s festival were the opening concert, which was headlined by violinist Nicola Benedetti; Mogwai’s festival debut; Gaelic songstresses Julie Fowlis and Kathleen MacInnes; rising Scottish star Rachel Sermanni; Irish rockabilly favourite Imelda May and Transatlantic Sessions, the annual showcase of Celtic and Americana acts staged over the final weekend.
Mr Shaw added: “I’m really looking forward to having the whole Concert Hall available next year.
“It will be great to get the Strathclyde Suite, the venue’s second biggest performance space, back in use.
“The thing I really want to do is to do a free but ticketed open-day event, using all the spaces in the venue and having revolving bands playing. It’s a real ambition of mine.
“The thing I miss a little bit [during] Celtic Connections, which you get a little bit at the festival club, is the kind of thing you get at a summer festival, when you buy a ticket to see a certain band, but then you get to see all this other stuff. To be able to do a big day or two like that would be great.”