MORE than 100,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, which opened on Thursday for the thirtieth year.

The renowned 18-day event will kickstart Scotland’s annual cultural calendar and showcase Glasgow’s UNESCO City of Music status and its role as the country’s cultural powerhouse.

Over the next two weeks, 1200 artists will perform at over 300 events, lighting up 25 venues across the city with world-class performances and exclusive collaborations for what is the biggest winter music festival of its kind in Europe.

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It first began in 1994, when it offered 66 events in one venue. With a number of shows already sold out, organisers say they are anticipating around 110,000 attendees – making 2024 one of the biggest-ever capacity programmes.

The festival’s programme covers everything from trad, folk, roots, Americana and jazz to soul, rock, orchestral, experimental and world music.

The sold-out opening concert on Thursday evening will see American Grammy winner Chris Thile, referred to by Billboard Magazine as “the best mandolin player in the world”, and will also welcome the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra to the stage, with guests including festival favourites Rachel Sermanni, Dreamers’ Circus and Sarah Jarosz.

On January 20, the trailblazing Scottish Ensemble is set to join forces with American double-bassist and composer Edgar Meyer, who will perform a set of Gaelic songs with celebrated Scottish fiddler Donald Grant, award-winning Gaelic singer Mischa Macpherson, harpist and composer Ailie Robertson and renowned Uillean piper Jarlath Henderson.

The National: More than 100,000 attendees are expected to attend this year's festivalMore than 100,000 attendees are expected to attend this year's festival (Image: Gordon Terris)

Other acts to look forward to include Swedish folk ensemble Väsen, set to enchant audiences at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on 26 January, and Angélique Kidjo, who will perform at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on January 29.

The festival is delivered by charity Glasgow Life as part of the city’s annual cultural events programme.

Organisers say they also aim to bring people together through dance. Several ceilidhs have been planned, including A Ceilidh for Gordon, a night to celebrate the life and legacy of Tiree accordion tutor Gordon Connell, The RSCDS Ceilidh, which promotes Scottish country dance and all related dance forms as inclusive, exciting activities that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, and Ando Glaso, set to take the ceilidh format whilst introducing a Transylvanian dance element.

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There will also be a traditional Burns Supper on January 25 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery, where attendees will be able to celebrate with much-loved Burns songs performed by the likes of Fiona Hunter, Sean Gray, Hannah Fisher, Sorren MacLean, and the Glasgow Chapel choir, amongst other special guests.

Donald Shaw, creative producer for Celtic Connections, said the festival has always been about uniting people “through a shared love and appreciation of music and culture”.

Shaw continued: “This year's line-up, one of our biggest and most ambitious to date, is packed with amazing talent from across Scotland and all over the world, reflecting just how far the festival has come over the past three decades, and underlining our ambition to showcase music of all genres and backgrounds.

“I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those whose efforts have made this year's festival possible. Your support has allowed us to curate an exceptional event that represents the heart and soul of Celtic, folk, roots, jazz and world music.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see proceedings kick off today; I know our musicians and everyone involved in the festival is ready to make this one to remember. If there is still a show you would like to see, I would urge you to buy yourself a ticket – you most certainly will not regret it.”

Christina McKelvie (below), Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, said the festival “speaks to the huge wealth of talent our country boasts”.

The National:

She said: “Celtic Connections is an annual high point in the calendar bringing artists and audiences from all corners of the globe together in Glasgow to celebrate the music of Scotland and our Celtic neighbours.

“This breadth of this year’s festival programme speaks to the huge wealth of talent our country boasts and the superb worldwide reputation of this iconic festival.

“The Scottish Government is proud to continue our support for Celtic Connections with £101,000 this year through our EXPO fund, which seeks to raise the international profile of Scottish artists and help maximise opportunities for them at home and abroad.”

Celtic Connections 2024 takes place from January 18 to February 4. A full programme and tickets are available here.