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From humble origins …

THE curtain is up and the show has begun.

The musical and cultural jamboree that is Celtic Connections began last night with a sold-out concert that paired classical violinist Nicola Benedetti with those superstars of the traditional world, Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham and Julie Fowlis, setting the tone for a truly eclectic festival.

This is Celtic Connections' 21st year, and organisers say its scale and variety show it has come of age.

It is difficult to argue with that. Running until February 2, the festival comprises a wealth of concerts, ceildihs, talks and workshops at a host of venues across Glasgow.

It is clear the city has grown to love kicking up its heels and shaking off any post-New Year ennui. In 2013, Celtic Connections achieved ticket sales worth more than £1 million and attendances over 100,000. Almost 15% of those enthusiasts came from overseas, from Africa to the US, from Europe and around the UK. The benefits to the local econ­omy are clear, with 44% of those attending booking an overnight stay. It has come a long way and silenced many doubters since its humble begin­nings, and is a crucial part of our cultural calendar. Long may it continue.

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