Celtic Connections could use SSE Hydro as ticket sales soar

Scottish musicians take centre stage on the opening day of Celtic Connections 2016. Picture: John Devlin
Scottish musicians take centre stage on the opening day of Celtic Connections 2016. Picture: John Devlin
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Glasgow’s biggest music festival is looking to expand to the city’s biggest indoor venue after notching up a record year at the box office.

Donald Shaw, artistic director of Celtic Connections, is already looking at shows to take to the 13,000-capacity SSE Hydro after dozens of festival concerts sold out this year.

More than £1.5 million was taken at the box office - up £400,000 in the space of just 12 months, organisers revealed.

The festival will have sold well over 100,000 tickets for the ninth year in a row when it draws to a close tonight with the second of two tribute concerts to the late Glasgow guitarist Bert Jansch.

Organisers reported a record 108 sell-outs have across the festival’s biggest ever programme, which featured several new venues including the Drygate Brewery and the Mackintosh Church.

And an extra day was added to the festival to accommodate demand to see the likes of Robert Plant, Bernard Butler, Graham Coxon and Ben Watt honour his musical legacy.

Other hot tickets include a gala concert to mark 100 years of the Easter Rising in Dublin, starring The Chieftains and Kris Kristofferson, an appearance by American singer-songwriter John Grant, a 30th anniversary concert by the celebrated folk duo Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, and Eddi Reader performing with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

Mr Shaw said the audience profile of the event was looking increasingly international as word of mouth about the festival continues to grow overseas.

He told The Scotsman: “We’re definitely going to beat our ticket sales from last year. Our audience numbers have been amazing this year.

“What I’ve noticed is that all our smaller venues have been absolutely jammed. People seem to have made a real point of experiencing our intimate venues.

“But a big venue like the Old Fruitmarket has had 10 sell-outs, which is just amazing, and the Strathclyde Suite at the concert hall has been packed for the whole festival.

“We have also noticed there has been a big increase in the international audience this year.

Mr Shaw hinted that the Hydro, which opened in September 2013, was being lined up for big-name artists to “curate” their own one-off festival shows in future.

However Mr Shaw, who has been at the helm of his 10th festival, admitted the development of the event could be hampered by a lack of available hotel rooms in the city.

He added: “We are looking at a couple of opportunities for the Hydro. As the festival grows, what I’m trying to do is bring an element of curation into it, for some of the higher-profile artists.

“Trying to bring in their ideas and make them part of the festival is certainly one way of developing it.

“We are trying to develop a relationship with really great, high-profile musicians where they feel that the festival can be a stage for aspirations and ideas that may be logistically complicated at other festivals.

“You wouldn’t want to put a show in the Hydro if it wouldn’t sell, it would look terrible, but you can make the venue more intimate than it is.

“If anything, one of our big problems in terms of growing the festival is the availability of hotel rooms in Glasgow.

“We are literally maxed out at the moment. We cannot just throw artists into a one-star hotel. The city is creaking at the seams. As soon as you start bringing in a show that needs a pipe band, an orchestra and a choir you run into trouble. And that’s just for one night.”