New talent championed by Liz Clark at Celtic Connections

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NOT many musicians can say they launched their career alongside musical greats such as Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Fran Healy and The Waterboys.

But that’s exactly what six finalists of the open stage at Celtic Connections will be able to claim next weekend, much to the delight of Liz Clark.

Liz has been the organiser and presenter of the much loved Danny Kyle Open Stage for 13 years now, and the passion and enthusiasm she has for new talent seems to be insatiable.

“For me, for the Danny Kyle Open Stage, it’s to see all the kids come through.

“They’ve got maybe a traditional backing, it’s not all traditional music that comes here, it’s a fantastic genre from all over the world.

“My heart is in traditional music, I’ll say that.

“But they’ll learn the traditional music and take it to a fantastic new genre that has never been done before.  It’s really like the jazz folk world or the Americana folk world.

“Tags are no use, they just make magnificent music.”

The event is named after and inspired by the musician Danny Kyle who did a great deal to promote folk music for many years before he died in 1998.  Liz Clark continues his legacy by championing new artists.

She said: “Danny had done the ‘Gies a Break’ stage and open stage all his life at all the festivals that he went to.  It was his way of actually giving people a puddy up.

“He would recommend people to festivals and folk clubs.  It was hard graft is those days to get started in the folk scene.

“A word from Danny or a set on the ‘Gies a Break’ stage – what a wonderful name for it – meant that a lot of artists were encouraged to come through the scene.”

Liz received well over 200 entries into the open stage event this year and listened to them all to select the 75 who were to perform, six of this will be chosen by judging panels as finalists and be awarded a gig as a supporting act at Celtic Connections 2012.

She said: “Now it is quite stunning work and I’m talking about from 10 years old upwards.

“There’s a lot of raw, beautiful young talent coming through just now which is not quite there yet but that stage will give them the spur to go on and we know they’ll be back.

“Maybe in five years time they’ll be playing the main auditorium, that’s what spurs me on.”

Liz has had a fascination with music from a young age and found it offered a world of excitement and intrigue.

She said: “Well I was always involved with music as a child.

“We moved from here up to the north east and sometimes kids don’t talk to each other so I used to wander round Stonehaven and go down to the kippering sheds and listen to the women gutting the fish and clapping their clogs and singing the wonderful north east songs which were actually completely pornographic but I didn’t know at the time.

“They sounded very nice and they had a jaunty little tune to them.

“We always had music in the house we had an Irish background as well as the Scottish Connection and I went to my first folk club when I was 14 on Montrose Street (Glasgow) and it was the original Humblebums of Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey that’s how long ago it was, I’m really old.

“If you sold the pies and things, you got in for nothing you know.  So that was my first folk club.”

Although Liz has long been a fan of folk music she does not perform for audiences herself and has thrown her efforts towards working behind the scenes.

“Because I never sang in public or anything like that I always helped organise so I was always on doors taking tickets or doing raffles or organising concerts or benefits with a lot of the different artists I got to know over the years.

“Any concert you did for me, you didn’t get paid it was always a benefit for somebody.  That’s really how I got started in it and met a lot of wonderful friends along the way.

The Danny’s continue daily in Glasgow Concert Hall at 5pm, the finale and announcement of the six finalists takes place on Sunday 30 January.

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