Monday, 27 June 2022

The Arts Festival is going strong, but are you going to it?

Here’s (most of) a DV about the Galway Arts Festival from 2009. At the time it caused a bit of a ruckus, was cited in the Irish Times and my mailbag was full for weeks. 

Since then the GIAF has sailed far past Joe Boske’s fantastic posters, Ollie Jennings and Páraic Breathnach, although the inestimable Garry Hynes is still very much involved. 

This year’s programme offers an impressive blend of music, theatre, performance, discussion and visual art, from local, national and international artists, so are you separated, divorced from or remarried to the Arts Festival?  

As one of countless creatives who long ago left the city because I could no longer afford to live in it, I’m curious to feel the mood on Galway’s streets.


July 11th, 2009 

Everyone hates a whinger who comes out with the same knocking copy each year. Yet once again I find myself looking ahead to the Galway Arts Festival with a mixture of excitement, hurt and sadness.

I couldn’t pin down exactly why, until I read an interview with Noeline Kavanagh, the Director of the Macnas Arts Festival Parade.

“Macnas is like the largest divorcee in Galway.” she said. “Everybody has a relationship with it.”

There it was: replace the word ‘Macnas’ with ‘Galway Arts Festival’, and that’s how I feel.

We Galwegians used to be married to the Galway Arts Festival. We lived in the same place, loved each other, had our ups and downs of course, but generally knew that we were good together. 

These days, the people of Galway feel so divorced from the Galway Arts Festival, they can barely remember what it was like to love it.

I want us to renew our vows. I want the Galway Arts Festival to ask us to move back in; to woo us; love us; kiss us and lick us the way it used to.

I’m not sitting here on my voluptuous arse trying to diss that plethora of extremely talented people who put a vast amount of creativity and energy into the two week splurge.

They do a fantastic job, but somewhere along the way the whole affair was lost. At the moment the word on the street is that shows are simply too expensive. 

To be fair, I don’t think that price is the single biggest factor in the decline of the Galway Arts Festival. 

There are many cheaper happenings in this year’s programme than other years, but through their pricing policy we glimpse how badly the Galway Arts Festival has lost touch with the people of Galway.

I wanted to see the New York Dolls, Femi Kuti and Primal Scream, for which I would pay €112, to stand at all three gigs. But what really made me angry was the fact that if I was on the dole, I’d still have to pay €110 for those three tickets.

For god’s sake, get real, Arts Festival people! Are you trying to intimidate the poor with art? Do you want us once again to believe that art exists only for the affluent élite? Isn’t that the opposite of what the Galway Arts Festival once stood for?

Climb out of your ivory towers and take a look at how many of us have been laid off, or are just plain broke.

Cop on to the fact that a night out which starts with a pair of tickets at €90 belongs to a dream of a Galway past, and exists now as an insulting anachronism.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Tiger is dead, and we’re trying to stay alive by picking mouthfuls from its rotten corpse

We all have our personal beefs about what is wrong with the Galway Arts Festival.

Project 06 splendidly reminded us how vital it is to include local artists and performers, yet each year, the official word comes forth that the Arts Festival have pulled off another major success.

Trouble is, for years now, it hasn’t felt like a success to us, the people of this city.

If the organisers of the Galway Arts Festival understand anything of Galway City, they know that you could take a burnt banana skin, mount it on top of a bus shelter, and advertise ‘The Burnt Banana Skin On Top Of The Bus Shelter Festival - the biggest thing to hit Galway since last Tuesday Afternoon!

As long as the people of this great city are behind it, hundreds of thousands of people will flock to Galway, because we’re the finest hosts in the best city in the world to throw a party, where fun is free and family-oriented.

Don’t tell me a over a half a million people came to our little city to see a Volvo yacht sail puff in the wind. They came because Galway is uniquely packed with brilliant, skilful and diverse talents.

We’ll give you the time of your lives, as we do every year during Race Week, but the joy of Galway is on the streets.

Doubtless during the Galway Arts Festival, our city centre will be strewn with buskers and performers of all kinds, which is just as well, because this year’s Galway Arts Festival programme lists a paltry 2 street acts, performing in total 5 times on 3 different days.

Shame on you, Galway Arts Festival.

If this marriage is ever going to work again, you really need to listen, learn and understand that whereas 15 years ago we were all buzzed up and proud of you, now you appear like a distant lost relative who expects us to run around, cook, clean, sweat and serve whenever you turn up on our doorstep.

Do I have any positive suggestions?

Why yes! In order to save this sick marriage between the Galway Arts Festival and the people of Galway City, first quadruple the free street theatre; return the Parade to the middle weekend afternoon, and offer hefty price concessions on all tickets sold to locals, upon production of a locally-addressed utility bill.

Then we might learn to love you again, and put the best of Galway - the fun, family and free - back into our own Arts Festival.


Is that colyoom now ancient history? Are you separated, divorced from or remarried to the Arts Festival?  

Are you now back in love with your festival, or has the ‘I’ for International in GIAF meant the Galway Arts Festival left town for good?  

As one of countless creatives who long ago left the city because I could no longer afford to live in it, I’m curious to feel the mood on Galway’s streets.   

Do you love the GIAF?

©Charlie Adley  


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