Edinburgh bids to match Celtic Connections with spring festival

Talisk - a three-piece band - are taking the UK folk scene by storm, having just won the 2017 Scots Trad Music 'Folk Band of the Year' award. They will appear at Edinburgh's new spring festival Tradfest
Talisk - a three-piece band - are taking the UK folk scene by storm, having just won the 2017 Scots Trad Music 'Folk Band of the Year' award. They will appear at Edinburgh's new spring festival Tradfest
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Edinburgh is to launch an ambitious bid to stage an equivalent event to Celtic Connections in the spring – which will take over the city’s major concert venues and spill out into the streets.

Music promoters have vowed to bring artists and audiences from around the world to the Scottish capital each April and May to try to emulate Glasgow’s world-famous winter festival which now attracts more than 130,000 people each year and features 300 events spread across 35 different stages.

Promoters Soundhouse have secured funding to stage 11 days of events in April and May under the banner of Tradfest.

Drawing from the legacy of events like the Edinburgh People’s Festival, which dates back to 1951, and the Edinburgh Folk Festival, which folded in 1999, it aims to fill hotel rooms outwith the peak tourism season by capitalising on growing demand from visitors for traditional Scottish music.

However, this year’s event will feature musicians from Ireland, Sweden, Canada and the United States, performing alongside home-grown favourites like Talisk, Adam Sutherland, Kathleen MacInnes and Fiona Hunter.

The Usher Hall, Queen’s Hall, Traverse Theatre, Scottish Storytelling Centre and Filmhouse cinema will all host events at Tradfest, with organisers hoping to triple audiences within two years.

Soundhouse founder Douglas Robertson said: “This year is about laying the foundations to develop Tradfest into a festival which is known and respected throughout this country and abroad.

“The sky is the limit as far as I’m concerned. I can’t see why it can’t grow considerably over the years. We think there is potential for a good, big, lively music festival event in Edinburgh to inject a huge amount of money into the economy.

“If a winter festival in Glasgow can attract the numbers it does then there is no good reason why a spring festival in Edinburgh, with its reputation as one of the world’s top travel destinations, can also grow, thrive and develop.”

Mr Robertson said he wanted Tradfest to stage a large-scale free event akin to the jazz festival’s Mardi Gras in future.

Mr Robertson added: “To me, a festival feels like a festival when there are things happening on the streets.

“Otherwise it’s just a collection of events inside closed buildings. Outdoor events are very often the only experience that people have of a festival.”
Tradfest has secured £18,500 from Creative Scotland and £5,000 from the city council. Celtic Connections was awarded £185,000 from the city council, £183,000 from Creative Scotland and £100,000 from the Scottish Government for its most recent event.

Mr Robertson added: “Celtic Connections has a huge amount of support from the city council in Glasgow – it’s effectively their festival.

“It’s a very good time to have an event in Edinburgh. It’s not in the main tourism season so there is space in hotels and it should be possible to get deals. You meet people at Celtic Connections who travel to the event from places like the United States every year. We want to attract that audience. We’ve had very little time to work on the event this year, but we will be looking for increased funding and sponsorship for future years.

“We will certainly be going to brewers and distillers to try to get their support. It would be great if they came on board.”