Monday, 21 January 2013

Tony Benn heads red thread through Celtic Connections

This is a copy of my article that was printed in the Morning Star on Saturday. Watch out for further comments on Celtic Connections events, as it is already shaping up to be rather a good Festival!

Last weekend saw the start of the Celtic Connections festival here in Glasgow. This innovative music festival with its roots firmly in the Scottish/Irish folk tradition is 20 this year! Since 1993 Celtic Connections has encompassed a huge range of material - Blues, Reggae, World, Jazz etc - mostly with an (occasionally tenuous) link to the Celtic diaspora.

There are often a number of events worth recommending to those of a left perspective. Tony Benn, Alastair McDonald, Arthur Johnstone, Sheena Wellington, Mark Thomas, Alistair Hulett and Dave Swarbrick are among those making the red thread glow through this year's festival.

Unusually, the music festival is throwing its schedule open to a film and Q&A session on Saturday 26 January, when former Minister and Labour MP,Tony Benn arrives to preview his film biography Will and Testament
Tony is back in Glasgow!
The hugely influential politician has been participating in the making of this film for the last two years (he is now 87). The preview will be followed by questions on his life, his politics and current issues in a session chaired by comedian Mark Thomas. Well-known singers Sheena Wellington, Arthur Johnstone and Alastair McDonald will also perform.

Tony Benn said 
I am pleased to come back to Glasgow, the home of the UCS work-in, and many prominent trade union and socialist activists. It is great to be able to introduce this film at Celtic Connections. There is an affinity between folk and radical ideas, that I also see at Glastonbury.”

Sheena Wellington
Arthur Johnstone is having a busy Celtic Connections. In addition to the Tony Benn event both he, Alastair, and Sheena are appearing in Songs of Struggle on the 29 Jan. This concert celebrates solidarity through song. Along with Dave Anderson (ex- Wildcat) and new singer Siobhan Miller, it continues the collaboration started by 2011's UCS anniversary concert. It can also now be revealed that both folk-rock legend Rab Noakes, and harmonica virtuoso Fraser Speirs will guest!

Both these are organised by FairPley, who stage events particularly for not-for-profit groups. The Tony Benn event is backed by Unite the union, UNISONScotland and the STUC,

Arthur also features in the Red Clydeside concert on Friday 25 January. Songs of the late singer-songwriter and campaigner Alistair Hulett, whose suite revisiting Red Clydeside were featured on his 2002 album with Dave Swarbrick, are being performed by the political-song doyen Roy Bailey, Arthur, rising star Ewan McLennan, and other special guests, including Karine Polwart and Gavin Livingstone.

Arthur Johnstone said
Arthur Johnstone
Jimmy Reid said during the UCS work-in that folk music has no meaning unless it expresses the lives and struggles of ordinary people. It is good that Celtic Connections is keeping that link prominent in the festival.”

Finally, the launch of the third volume of Songs by Robert Tannahill, the eighteenth-century Paisley weaver/poet takes place at the festival on January 31.

Links between folk music and people's struggle have been well-established over the years -especially in Scotland. Celtic Connections is one festival which is benefiting from the reignition of a spark linking new audiences to radical entertainment. Tickets for these events and many more can be obtained from

No comments:

Post a Comment