The festival programme includes Irish and international work of the highest quality, featuring theatre, music, visual arts, opera, street spectacle, dance, discussion and comedy. In addition to the celebrated annual festival, GIAF presents a major discussion platform on creativity and innovation, First Thought Talks.
In 2019, over 200 events took place in 30 venues over the course of 14 days with an attendance in excess of 260,000. The Guardian named the festival as one of the Top 5 Summer Festivals in Europe.
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Previous festival highlights include The Flaming Lips, Madness, Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell, Bill Viola, The National, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, John Grant, The Gloaming, Elvis Costello, John Gerrard, Hughie O’Donoghue, Sophie Calle, Louise Bourgeois, Cormac McCarthy, Ivo van Hove, David Hockney, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, Radiohead, Nile Rodgers, Chic, Fabulous Beast, Michael Clark, Hofesh Shechter, Marina Abramovic, Steppenwolf, Royal Court, New York Theatre Workshop and Circa. GIAF also works regularly with leading Irish companies including Druid.
GIAF Productions & Touring
Galway International Arts Festival also produces its own theatre productions and exhibitions, and tours them nationally and internationally. In the last five years, the organisation has produced or co-produced 16 productions and, with its co-producing partners, has toured to London, Paris, New York, Edinburgh, Chicago, Adelaide, Sydney, Hong Kong and Washington.
Enda Walsh's critically lauded Rooms series, produced by Galway International Arts Festival, was presented as one for the first time by The Barbican in London in April 2019. For more information on the installation, click here.
Galway International Arts Festival and Jen Coppinger, in association with Poetry Ireland, presented Incantata by Paul Muldoon at Galway International Arts Festival 2018.
Complicité and Wayward Productions in association with Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival presented Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers, adapted and directed by Enda Walsh, at the Black Box Theatre in Galway in March 2018 before it transfered to the O'Reilly Theatre in Dublin.
Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival also toured to St Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York in January 2018 with Ballyturk, which previously opened the Abbey Theatre's new season in January 2017.
Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival co-production Woyzeck in Winter transferred to London’s prestigious Barbican Centre in September and Dublin Theatre Festival in October following its world premiere at the Galway International Arts Festival in July 2017.
The organisation’s other recent work includes Arlington, by Tony Award-winning playwright Enda Walsh, (a co-production with Landmark Productions), which premiered at Galway International Arts Festival 2016, toured to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in March 2017, and had its New York premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse in May 2017.
Galway International Arts Festival’s hit installation Rooms, also written and directed by Enda Walsh, made its New York premiere in May this year also. The installation, which is a series of three short works - Room 303, A Girl’s Bedroom and Kitchen - premiered at Galway International Arts Festival between 2014 and 2016 and were presented together under the collective title of Rooms at the Festival in July 2016. A Girl’s Bedroom also toured to the Kennedy Center, Washington DC in 2016. Enda Walsh's fourth Room, Bathroom, premiered at this year's Galway International Arts Festival.
Other notable productions include Ballyturk
(co-produced with Landmark Productions), starring Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea, which won Best Production at the Irish Theatre Awards 2014.
Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival’s production of Misterman by Enda Walsh starring Cillian Murphy played Galway, New York and London.
and Galway International Arts Festival’s production of riverrun, in association with Cusack Projects Ltd., by Olwen Fouéré, played Galway, London, Edinburgh, New York, Adelaide, Sydney and Washington. The same team produced Lessness by Samuel Beckett, also starring Olwen Fouéré, which premiered at the Barbican’s International Beckett Season in 2015 and travelled to Paris in 2016.
Invitation to a Journey, a GIAF co-production with CoisCéim Dance Theatre, Crash Ensemble and Fishamble: The New Play Company, which premiered at GIAF 2016, toured to Dublin in July 2016, while Death at Intervals by Kellie Hughes, which also premiered at GIAF 2016, toured to Dublin Theatre Festival in October 2016.
The Galway International Arts Festival co-production with Northlight Theatre of Christian O’Reilly’s Chapatti, starring John Mahoney and Penny Slusher, premiered in Chicago in March 2014 and played in Galway during Festival 2014.
First Thought Talks
Galway International Arts Festival’s discussion platform First Thought Talks is a thought leadership platform focused on creativity that puts a spotlight on issues of the day and showcases thought-provoking discussion with both Irish and international thought leaders from a range of arts and non-arts disciplines on forward-thinking ideas and creative best practices. In 2020, First Thought Talks expanded to include a podcast, First Thought.
First Thought Talks takes place each year as part of the festival, with a number live-streamed on the GIAF Facebook page. Increasingly, they are also held as stand-alone events outside the festival. The platform is a forum for discussion on creativity across a range of fields and disciplines, with the aim of engaging, informing and inspiring creative discourse.
Since its introduction in 2012, the programme has developed significantly, featuring many high-profile events and panellists, including President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, writer Colm Tóibín, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, RTÉ’s Caitriona Perry, psychologist Maureen Gaffney and Syrian Architect Marwa Al-Sabouni, discussing themes of power, borders and more. Galway International Arts Festival has also staged three international First Thought Talks - with Galway adventurer and solo transatlantic rower, Gavan Hennigan, playwright Enda Walsh and artist John Gerrard.