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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 19:38 GMT
Parade lights up Celtic festival
Torch lit procession
The procession kicked off Celtic Connections 2008
One of Europe's biggest music festivals has opened with a spectacular torchlight procession through Glasgow.

The 15th annual Celtic Connections festival features more than 1,000 artists from 20 countries.

Two pipe bands led a mass of blazing torches from George Square to the Royal Concert hall to officially open the festival on Wednesday.

The festival will run for 19 days, with concerts at 14 venues across the city, including BBC Scotland's headquarters.

Among the headline acts will be country music star Steve Earle, KD Lang and ex-Rolling Stone bassist Bill Wyman.

Jam sessions

The event will also feature Scottish groups Capercaillie and Teenage Fanclub, alongside African world music star Baaba Maal and choirs from Italy and Bulgaria.

King Creosote, Emma Pollock, Mike Scott, Julie Fowlis and Shooglenifty are also scheduled to perform.

The festival's club, which has hosted some legendary late-night jam sessions over the years, will make a return to its original home, the Quality Hotel.

It will also be supported by a dedicated Celtic music radio station, which launches on Wednesday.

Celtic Music Radio, based at the University of Strathclyde, will include news and features from Celtic Connections, but has secured a licence to continue indefinitely afterwards.

The station's Mark Sheridan said: "After the festival, we'll be following the cultural calendar, showcasing the country's finest musicians, as well as reviewing the latest in theatre, film and dance."

The festival began as a way of filling the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall's January schedule, but has grown dramatically over the years and is now estimated to be worth 6.8m to the local economy.

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