A spectacular Viking torch-lit march has marked the opening of the Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow.
The Shetland vikings welcomed audiences to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with flaming torches, cheers and songs in a celebration of Up Helly Aa.
This year’s Celtic Connections is able to proceed with live in-person performances after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced most remaining Covid restrictions in Scotland will be lifted on Monday.
Pubs, nightclubs and theatres will be able to operate at full capacity and hospitality curbs including table service and one metre distancing between groups are being scrapped.
This year’s hybrid Celtic Connections programme spans around 60 lively in-person concerts, a number of intimate filming sessions and a digital offering, with more than 500 artists involved across the festival.
The festival is staging two specially-commissioned Shetland 550 shows to celebrate the island’s “unique cultural history and identity 550 years on from the islands becoming part of Scotland”.
Donald Shaw, creative producer for Celtic Connections, said: “The festival has never shied away from ambition and we’re very excited to still be able to present such a vibrant programme, covering live shows, filming sessions and digital content.
“Despite the challenging environment we’ve been operating in, we have been driven by our passion for Scottish music and culture and opportunities for unforgettable collaboration. We look forward to reconnecting with our audiences at home and around the world over the next few weeks.”
This year’s Celtic Connections is the 29th edition of the Glasgow festival, which features folk, world and roots musicians from all over the world.
In 2021, due to Covid-19, the festival went online for the very first time. Over 100,000 people tuned in from 65 countries to watch over 10.5 million minutes of content across 19 days.
Culture minister Jenny Gilruth said: “We welcome Celtic Connections’ plan to stage live indoor events at this year’s festival following the First Minister’s announcement of a relaxation in restrictions.
“Live performances are not only exciting for audiences, but they are important to maintain the festival’s visibility and support the development of our emerging artists. They are also crucial in driving our cultural recovery from the pandemic.”