The festival’s creative producer said limiting the number of artists who fly in to perform was ‘the responsible thing to do’
A Scottish festival celebrating international folk, roots and traditional music has said it may have to limit the number of overseas artists it invites to perform in response to the climate crisis.
Celtic Connections’ creative producer, Donald Shaw, described the issue as “the biggest challenge” facing the festival. “We cannot bury our head in the sand. It’s not really enough to fly 300 artists from all around the world and justify it on the grounds that art is important. Festivals like this one are going to have to think very seriously about whether we can do that any more.”
Speaking at the opening of Celtic Connections 2020, Shaw said he anticipated that the festival would have to “make a statement” about reducing international travel. “The number of international artists will be reduced unless someone comes up with a solution which appeases the climate emergency.”
He said the move was necessary because it is “the right thing to do. It is the responsible thing to do. We all have to take responsibility for what is happening at the moment.”
Shaw said that artists performing at the 2020 edition of the festival had been asked to avoid air travel in order to attend, but the limits of that suggestion are evident in its heavily international bill: artists from Canada, Mali, Portugal, Lebanon, America, France, Guinea, Spain, Finland, India, Senegal, Burma and Cameroon will perform across 300 events in Glasgow this week, with the Malian stars Fatoumata Diawara and supergroup les Amazones d’Afrique among the most anticipated acts.
Closer to home, Shaw said the festival organisers had been assessing the environmental impact of the CalMac ferry, compared to flights. “We’ve already discussed what the difference is between using a CalMac ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool and flights between Stornoway and Glasgow. If it is very clear that as flights cause by far the worst damage to the environment, then we have to reduce them.”
One potential solution, he suggested, was to plant “acres of trees” for every artist that flies in for the festival and to encourage alternative ways to travel from Europe.