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.

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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.