Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

Celtic Connection’s Lesley Shaw: Guest blog

We’re hugely grateful to Lesley Shaw, Producer at Celtic Connections, one of the busiest women in the business, for writing a guest blog for us. Here’s Part 1 — it’s a great read. Thanks Lesley, we don’t know how you found the time!

Lesley Shaw having a right good time!

Could you describe what your Celtic Connections role entails?

Now there’s a question…A lot of my role entails handling logistics for the festival. From when artists are booked right through until their departure. That includes everything from liaising with agents and managers, production teams, venues, as well as organising visas, travel and accommodation, airport transfers and catering. We have a year great team at the festival who help with all of these aspects, including our volunteers who are invaluable, so it really is a team-effort.

What are your most memorable moments – good or bad – from your time in the role?

Oh, there are so many! Good moments… wow… the creation of the Grit Orchestra was (and still) is something pretty special. It’s such an amazing group, the musicians, the production team, the caterers – everyone. Seeing everyone work together for the same purpose is quite incredible.

The growth of Transatlantic Sessions into a show that now tours the UK after Celtic Connections, selling out venues up and down the country has been quite a feat.

Some of the most memorable moments have been seeing some musicians who first played on the Open Stage, or some of our collaborations as young musicians, become professional musicians in their own right. That’s something that the festival is really proud of and it’s a great thing to see the development of young musicians (and shows) over the years. I was lucky to see Treacherous Orchestra form as a last of the night festival club outfit to the raucous band that sold out the ABC only a year later and went on to play Hyde Park, Glastonbury and festivals all over Europe.

A personal highlight for me was meeting Angelique Kidjo in 2015. I’m a huge fan and think she’s such an inspirational woman. She’s one of these astonishing people who has an aura around her and had so much time for everyone that she spoke to.

And one of the best things is seeing so many familiar faces year on year… for 18 days in January, every day is like seeing family at New Year! I should stop… I could go on forever!

Bad memories thankfully are few in number, but one would have to be seeing the Central Hotel close its doors on the last night of the festival club. The hotel had been in such a state of decline for a long time and seeing staff lose their jobs and the doors close on the final day was heart-breaking. It’s great for the hotel and the City that it’s been refurbished back to its former glory.

This is a golden period for folk music in Scotland. Discuss. Briefly.

Folk music is so vibrant at the moment and as a nation we’re lucky to have such a rich musical heritage. When I was at school, it wasn’t necessarily cool to play music. Today, more and more young people are interested in learning instruments and degrees and masters courses in Scottish Music at universities such as the RCS and National Piping Centre show that there is a demand for this. Offering this kind of support encourages young musicians to take their studies further and shows them that there is a future in careers in Scottish music.

Celtic Connections celebrated its 25th festival this year and it provided a professional platform for folk music and has really paved the way for making the industry as vibrant as it is today. It provides opportunities for collaboration and for musicians to experiment, showcase and celebrate their work at all levels of their careers. The number of music festivals in Scotland with folk music at the core helps to sustain the industry and challenges musicians to continually evolve.

We’re an outward thinking nation and many folk musicians are using their stage as a platform to express their feelings during the current difficult political times. Their creativity is often a voice that resonates with their listeners.

However, it is also true though that musicians have to work a lot harder to sustain a living as a professional musician. Sales of physical cds are continually decreasing and venues and promoters are at the mercy of tighter budgets and lower audience figures so many musicians have to diversify and now also teach, produce, play in a number of bands and are heavily dependent on limited funding resources. They need the support of the industry and audiences more than ever to ensure that the golden period in Scottish Folk music lasts for many years to come.

Part 2 of Lesley’s guest blog follows on Monday.

Dates of our tours for Celtic Connections here:  Merchant City Trad Trail