Left events at this year's Celtic Connections were a great hit at the box office
As the 20th Celtic Connections Festival drew to a close at the weekend, the organisers must have congratulated themselves on the huge success of the "red thread" that ran through this year's events.
Although not promoted separately - unlike the Americana strand - the politicos almost universally sold out, only this time in a good way.
Songs Of Struggle, the show that arose from the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders' 40th anniversary concert, is developing into a regular event. Producers FairPley mounted the show at last years Celtic Connections and it featured in last August's Edinburgh fringe festival at the Assembly Rooms. It returned to its roots in the Mitchell Theatre with rip-roaring success.
The show is now developing its own dynamic, with a core group of Alastair McDonald, Dave Anderson, Sheena Wellington and the ever-present Arthur Johnstone along with the Stars Band.
The concert was supplemented by the experienced talent of Rab Noakes and Fraser Speirs and upcoming folk stars Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller. The packed Mitchell rocked along to songs of mining, rent strikes and international solidarity, many making the contemporary links with struggles described in old songs.
At the same venue Scots In The Spanish Civil War, curated by Ian MacCalman, was the first left event to sell out.
This was again a themed evening based on the recent Greentrax album No Pasaran! with a line-up including high-energy Scots-Spanish group Gallo Rojo performing the title track, Christine Kidd's gentle Si Mi Quieres Escribir and the ubiquitous Arthur Johnstone rounding off a successful evening.
But the most unusual left-field success was a film preview featuring "the most dangerous man in Britain" Tony Benn.
In Glasgow to promote his forthcoming film biography Will And Testament, Benn was applauded onto the stage by 1,800 people in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow's premier venue, after a preview of what looks to be an excellent film.
Now 87, Benn showed he was as sharp as ever, and not afraid of tackling controversy.
The Q&A session chaired by comedian Mark Thomas dealt with issues like the media, the Labour Party, Scottish independence and Ireland. McDonald, Wellington and Johnstone nipped over from Songs Of Struggle to add some music to the lunchtime performance.
The concert to remember was devoted to the late Scots and internationalist singer-songwriter Alistair Hulett in Saint Andrew's in the Square, which pulled another capacity crowd.
Featuring Karine Polwart, Ewan MacLennan and Roy Bailey as well as that man Arthur Johnstone again, much of the evening was based on the Red Clydeside album that Hulett and Dave Swarbrick issued in 2002 and the traditional and original songs from 1919 again linked back to today's struggles.
Hulett's Mrs Barbour's Army, sung by Anne Neilson, went down particularly well.
Alongside the overtly political events, many of the other concerts had a political edge, with Irish-American band Solas featuring their Shamrock City project, the history of the Irish immigrant workforce of the copper mines of Butte, Montana.
Was this all merely a nostalgic harking back to a mythical age of socialism?
Or is it, as Thomas said, simply that media reports stating that socialism is dead are greatly exaggerated?
Maybe it's a bit of both but it is also an indication that people - perhaps especially in Scotland - are casting round for some hope.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond struggled to fill a small hall for a keynote speech during the festival while Benn packed 'em in.
That's not a comment on Salmond but an indication that the independence debate is becoming stale and irrelevant to people's lives.
But the hope of a better and more socialist future still has the power to attract.
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