1. The first Galway Arts Festival was staged between 6 and 12 April 1978, and was described by Dickie Byrne in Galway Advertiser as ‘Galway Arts Society’s Week of Craic’.
2. Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) worked in a mobile phone shop in Eyre Square in 2000 for 4 months. He was keen to play a gig in Galway, which is how he ended up playing GIAF in 2009.
3. David Byrne from Talking Heads played the 2004 festival. His gig in the Radisson Hotel on Monday 26 July was the only show in the Festival's history that extended into Race Week.
4. The largest ever ticketed attendance at a GIAF event was at The Big Day Out on 28 July 1996, when 20,000 people packed Castlegar Sports Grounds to see Radiohead, The Bluetones, Neneh Cherry, The Cardigans, The Divine Comedy and Ron Sexsmith. It was also Radiohead’s biggest audience up to that point.
5. The first time David Gray ever played to more than a thousand people was at the Galway Arts Festival in July 1999, when he played the Festival Big Top.
6. Frasier actor John Mahoney has been a festival stalwart since 2000. The Tony Award winner names Galway and Chicago as his favourite places in the world.
Enda Walsh and John Mahoney
7. Star of The Wire TV series Jim True-Frost appeared in the Steppenwolf production Sideman at the Galway Arts Festival in 2000.
Rondi Reed with Jim True-Frost in Sideman
8. Malcolm McLaren, the legendary manager of The Sex Pistols, gave a lecture titled ‘Living Yesterday Tomorrow’ in the Town Hall Theatre at Galway Arts Festival in 1997.
9. John Astin, the original Gomez from the much-loved TV series The Addams Family, opened the Festival in 2001 and featured in that year’s programme with Edgar Allan Poe’s one-man show Once Upon a Midnight.
10. Flight of The Conchords from New Zealand were part of the 2004 Festival. Their venue was upstairs at the since-closed Cuba nightclub, with a capacity of 150.
11. Following a sold-out run at the 2011 Festival, the Landmark Productions and GIAF co-production Misterman went on to play New York, where it was the New York Times Critics’ Choice for 18 consecutive days.
Cillian Murphy in Misterman
12. The Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival co-production Ballyturk won Best Production at the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards in 2014.
Cillian Murphy in Ballyturk
13. The first ever First Thought Talk took place at the 2012 Festival and featured legendary musician and producer Nile Rodgers, whose band Chic played the Festival that year.
Nile Rodgers and Chic
14. The first internationally-celebrated GIAF theatre production to tour overseas was Trad, written by Mark Doherty. It toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005.
Trad, by Mark Doherty
15. Galway Arts Festival changed its name to Galway International Arts Festival in 2014.
16. Druid Theatre Company’s first play as part of Galway Arts Festival was Island Protected by a Bridge of Glass, which was written and directed by Garry Hynes in 1979.
17. James Thiérrée, whose Compagnie du Hanneton appeared in the 2003 and 2004 Festival, is a grandson of Charlie Chaplin. His sister, Aurelia Thiérrée, appeared in the 2005 Festival with Aurelia's Oratorio.
Aurelia Thiérrée in Aurelia's Oratorio
18. GIAF was the first festival in Ireland to have its own website, launched in late 1992. It was inspired by Kenny’s Bookshop, the first bookshop in the world to have a website.
19. Willy DeVille, who played Galway Arts Festival 1992 as part of the New Orleans Revue (which also featured Dr John, Zachary Richard, Johnny Adams, The Wild Magnolias and Eddi Bo), christened Galway ‘The City of the Vibes’.
20. The Cripple of Inishmaan, written by Martin McDonagh, first played Galway as a National Theatre of Great Britain production directed by Nicholas Hyntner at GAF 1997.
21. The Philip Glass Ensemble and The Blue Nile played on the same night in 2008. It was the last time that the Blue Nile played together live.
22. The Waterboys played a festival mini-tour of Galway in 2003, performing five gigs over one weekend including the 90-seater Druid Theatre and the 1,000 capacity Radisson Ballroom.
Mike Scott, The Waterboys
23. P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, two of the best-known crime writers, interviewed each other in the Town Hall Theatre during GAF 1996.
24. Enda Walsh’s first play Disco Pigs, starring Cillian Murphy in his first stage role and which also starred Eileen Walsh, featured in the 1997 Festival Programme.
25. Daniel Lanois, Nile Rodgers and T-Bone Burnett, three of the greatest living music producers, have all played the Festival.
26. Between 2011 and 2016, Galway International Arts Festival’s theatre productions and co-productions received 11 national and international theatre awards from 28 nominations.
27. The first GIAF theatre production was a co-production with Macnas of Patrick McCabe’s The Dead School.
The Dead School starring Mick Lally
28. Rondi Reed, cast member of US sitcom Mike and Molly, made her Festival debut in 2000 in Sideman and starred opposite John Mahoney in Bruce Graham's The Outgoing Tide in Galway in 2012. Rondi has performed as Madame Morrible on Broadway in the musical Wicked.
29. The first First Thought Talks series to take place outside the Festival took place at Kylemore Abbey on 12 April 2015.
30. The first First Thought Talks series to take place overseas took place in New York on 8 May 2017, and featured adventurer Gavan Hennigan, in conversation with author Belinda McKeon.
Journalist Belinda McKeon, Consul General of Ireland, Barbara Jones, adventurer Gavan Hennigan & Paul Fahy, GIAF Artistic Director
31. The Galway Film Fleadh, Baboró International Arts Festival for Children and Macnas all began as part of the Galway Arts Festival.
32. In 1998, Druid’s Artistic Director Garry Hynes, whose work has regularly featured at the Festival, became the first woman to win a Tony Award for Best Director for The Beauty Queen of Leenane.
33. The budget for the first Galway Arts Festival in 1978 was €1,000 - a grant donated from the Arts Council.
34. Cillian Murphy won Best Actor at the 2012 The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards for his performance in Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival’s production of Misterman.
Cillian Murphy in Misterman
35. The first Galway Arts Festival held many of its events in a makeshift arts centre that is now Sheridan’s Cheesemongers on Church Lane. These included exhibitions, a video installation by James Coleman and readings, including one by John McGahern.
36. Two Footsbarn actors, Kasha and Tomais, were married in Galway during the run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream during Galway Arts Festival in 1993.
37. The Galway Arts Festival was formed in 1978 by a group of students from University College Galway’s Arts Society, who regrouped downtown and were joined by artists and community activists in Galway Arts Group. They were - Ollie Jennings, Conall Mac Riocaird, Ted Turton, Mary Coughlan, Gaby Froese, Jim Raftery, Doreen Ní Sheagha, Rosaleen O'Connell, Joe Boske, Martin Conneely, Sean Gannon and Kieran Corcoran.
Founders of Galway Arts Festival
38. Multi Emmy award-winning actor Laurie Metcalf, who starred in the TV sitcom Roseanne, won the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play in 2017 for A Doll’s House Part 11. Laurie appeared at the Festival in Purple Heart written by Bruce Norris and directed by Anna D. Shapiro in 2003.
39. Stephen Rea, who appeared in the Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival production of Enda Walsh’s Ballyturk, was nominated for an Oscar - Best Actor In A Leading Role for his performance in Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game.
40. Hugh O’Conor, who starred in Arlington at last year’s Festival, made his screen debut in 1985, aged 10, starring opposite Liam Neeson in the hit film Lamb.
Hugh O'Conor in Arlington