Glasgow Gallivanting: January 2017

Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections logoIf you live in Glasgow, you have about two weeks to get over the hedonism of Christmas and New Year when – ooft! – it’s Celtic Connections! This bills itself as “the largest annual winter music festival of its kind and the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music” and we throw ourselves into it with enthusiasm, usually attending half a dozen or so gigs over the 19 days.

This year, in six concerts we heard musicians from Scotland, England, Ireland and America (and that’s quite a conservative selection) in five different venues ranging from the formal concert hall, via the Old Fruitmarket, to the iconic Barrowland Ballroom. Highlights? So hard to choose but, if pushed, I’d go for Phil Cunningham’s Highlands and Islands Suite. Phil, his accordion, and a front-row of other professional musicians were supported by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – its Traditional Musicians, Chorale and Symphony Orchestra. There must have been 150 people on the stage and the music soared. When I said to John at the interval that I had been moved almost to tears I half expected a scornful look, but he agreed. It wasn’t only the evocatively Scottish music, there was also something so heart-warming about a stage full of young people working hard to perfect their art – having chosen to do so in our city.

Gluttony

Celtic Connections is pretty hard on the waistline – all those pre-theatre meals – and it’s not helpful that Burns Night falls slap bang in the middle. This year, we ate our haggis, neeps and tatties with friends in the Curlers, a local pub-restaurant. We have also been tempted by two large boxes of Chinese rose pastries, a new year gift from one of John’s Chinese colleagues. Definitely yummy – ooh, I need to walk all this off, but…

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

…oh dear, we haven’t had much in the way of country walks: only one that I can remember, in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. This time last year, we spotted red squirrels from the wildlife hide. This time they were not to be seen, though there were plenty of birds about.

Exhibitions

We managed a couple of exhibitions in January. One Glasgow museum, the Burrell Collection, has recently closed for refurbishment and in the meantime some of its paintings are on show at another, Kelvingrove. The current exhibition is of work by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913), one of a group of radical painters known as The Glasgow Boys. Girl on a bicycle has long been one of my favourites – just look at the little dachshund excitedly running alongside – but there was plenty more to see, and will be until 1st July if you are in the area.

We also saw an exhibition in the Lighthouse called A Life in Letterpress. Typographic artist Alan Kitching began his working life apprenticed to a printer, before becoming a technician at Watford College, then a teacher, designer and artist. In an age of computer design, he continues to create using wood and metal letterforms. The results are stunning! On till 5th March.

The last bit

New Year, new blogging resolution – to have a round-up post like this at the end of every month. How long will it continue? My last new series (People Make Glasgow) lasted for approximately (ahem, exactly) one post, and I’m already almost a week late with this one, so we’ll see.

I also wondered what would happen if I had nothing to round up, either because I’d written about it already or (and it does happen) I had done nothing worth blogging about. Step forward The last bit of random stuff and padding. This month – Scotland reacts to Trump, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Scotland is not impressed.

  • The sublime – Karine Polwart at Celtic Connections with I burn but I am not consumed, a poetic mixture of spoken word and song considering Donald’s Scottish roots. Favourite line: You who see nothing but your own face in the sheen of the Hudson River. (Sorry, I couldn’t get this BBC video to embed).
  • The ridiculous – Just 19 Incredibly Scottish Signs Telling Donald Trump He’s A Bawbag (Buzzfeed). Not for the easily offended. Translations available on request. (As a start, baw = ball. I’m sure you can work out the rest.)

So that was January in Glasgow. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

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The Ideal Hut Show

The Ideal Hut Show has reached Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens! A selection of architects, artists and designers from Scotland and abroad have transformed standard garden sheds for this exhibition, which is touring Scotland as part of the Festival of Architecture. I loved it! Especially as the weather has been so good lately: it’s been fun to wander through the huts. Do you have a favourite?

This has got me thinking about “Festival Glasgow”. In the first 6 months of this year, as well as the Festival of Architecture, we’ve been to events for Celtic Connections (music), Aye Write (books), the Storytelling Festival, Glasgow International (art), the West End Festival and Refugee Festival Scotland.

Some highlights – NB these are mostly phone photos, sometimes from quite a distance away, so they don’t really bear enlarging:

Here’s Frazey Ford (ex-Be Good Tanyas) supported by Ola Onabule at the ABC – this was our favourite gig of Celtic Connections (the emphasis mostly being on Connections rather than Celtic.) We were right at the front which had the added advantage, for an all-standing gig, of being able to lean against the crowd-barrier. The musicians at the Royal Concert Hall (centre) were a little stiff though 😉

I’d never been to a Storytelling Festival before. It surprised me by having music and images as well as spoken word.

I visited a number of small exhibitions during Glasgow International. Below is a 16th century commonplace book which formed the centrepiece of Speaking Volumes at Glasgow Women’s Library, a couple of colourful rooms at the David Dale Gallery, Semi-gloss, Semi-permeable in the gloriously light space of the Albus, and back to the Botanic Gardens where some sculptures by Aaron Angell nestled amongst the plants in the hothouse.

Finally, the West End Festival is still in full swing. Last Sunday we caught this colourful Lion Dance in a street near our home.

Glasgow is a really fun place to live, so the moral of my story is, there’s never a bad time to visit – there’s always something on!

Celtic Connections 2014

Not strictly travel, but we had such a great time at Celtic Connections this year that I felt I had to document it. We were there for the opening night concert on 16th January, the very last concert (Transatlantic Sessions) on 2nd February and another five in between, of which John got good pictures of two.

Olive Grove Records Showcase

This gig was at Oran Mor, our local venue – a converted church. It has to win the prize as best value for money – a tenner for six bands over five hours. Quite sore on the old feet though. I’m particularly interested in the State Broadcasters because I used to work with two of the members, Graeme and Pete, and it’s lovely to see them up on stage.

Imelda May

This was one of three gigs we went to in the Old Fruitmarket – which is exactly what the name suggests, a former market in which you can still read the names of the old stallholders beneath the balcony. We’ve now seen Imelda three times and she never disappoints – vibrant and full of energy.

The other gigs not mentioned were Capercaillie’s 30th anniversary concert, Julie Fowlis, and Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott. There’s a lovely sense of community between the artists, many of whom appear on other people’s stages, sometimes unbilled. For example, we saw Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis four times – once at her own gig, she was part of the ensembles at the opening concert and Transatlantic Sessions, and she also appeared as a guest with Capercaillie. One busy lady!

So that’s it over for another year. Not only are we now exhausted, but our waistlines have expanded because of all the pre-theatres that were “necessary”. It’s definitely time for a quiet life and a bit of recovery.