The Met’s Artistic Director David Agnew gets to travel the country finding great acts to bring back to Bury… this year he sampled the best of Scotland without leaving his home.


“My January for about 15 years has always included a trip to Glasgow – invited by Showcase Scotland for a weekend of Celtic Connections Festival. Showcase Scotland is an industry event which invites programmers and producers from across the world to come together for a packed 4 days to network, see great music and cook up collaborative, creative projects.

Many will know – Celtic Connections sees every nook and cranny in Glasgow alive with the best in folk, roots and acoustic music for 3 weeks in front of an enviable appreciative audience. It’s transformed Glasgow into one of the most fulfilling and joyous places to spend a cold and wet January.

This year the festival went online – sets recorded in December in the much loved venues, polished and presented in daily concerts for 3 weeks – the 26 concerts available per gig or as a festival pass. I was invited to take part in the virtual Showcase Scotland – zoom receptions, whatsapp gig watch parties, whisky tasting workshops, a shouty quiz and a trade fair. 100 delegates including friendly faces in Australia, Canada, US and Europe.

Close-up shot of an accordian being played visible on a laptop screen.
Getting close to the action, 2021-style

Screen fatigue has been talked about a lot but what a week – catching up with friends from across the world and in the UK. It was inspiring to share in US delegates’ joy and hope at last week’s inauguration and hopeful to start to plot again through non-EU realities and the challenges still around 10 months after Covid first interrupted the live music scene globally.

Inspired by brilliant musicians every evening and re-experiencing the joy of live – or a version of live – left us all motivated and hungry to work collaboratively again despite the polarising effect of the pandemic and the restrictions it brings.

Whisky samples and a Caramel Wafer on a tartan background
Delegates were able to sample Scottish culture from home.

Celtic Connections concerts are still available – Met and Head for the Hills audiences will recognise lot of familiar faces (Blue Rose Code, Blazin Fiddles, Secret Sisters, Jose Gonzalez, Talisk, Admiral Fallow, Ross Ainslie, Karen Matheson) going some way to reminding us of the thrills that are still out there and we will get back to. The empty stalls and halls remain a sad sight but the music and craic is as mighty – and needed – as ever.

A perfect accompaniment to Burns Night – the opening concert alone says everything you need to know about Glasgow’s determination to bounce back.”

David Agnew, Not in Glasgow, January 2021

Watch The Celtic Connections Trailer

Celtic Connections Shows are available until 5 Feb

Watch the festival trailer here