As we bid farewell to 2023, it's time to reflect on another extraordinary summer in Galway. Let's take a walk down memory lane and celebrate the highlights that made this year truly exceptional.
From druids to dragons, artists to acrobats, Galway International Arts Festival 2023 presented over 127 multidisciplinary events, with 614 performances that saw over 400,000 attendances over two jam-packed weeks, embracing creativity and leaving people with forgettable memories.
‘Ireland’s most highly regarded arts festival.’
The Irish Times
The festival kicked off with a bang as renowned artists and performers graced our stages. From mesmerising musical performances to captivating theatrical productions, the headline acts left audiences spellbound. Notable mentions include father-daughter duo Colm Meaney and Brenda Meaney in Enda Walsh’s savagely funny play Bedbound, the remarkable DruidO’Casey trilogy, the return of The Saw Doctors and Planete Vapuer’s daring Dragon that thrilled onlookers on the streets of Galway. And let's not forget the jaw dropping acrobatics in Gravity & Other Myths' The Pulse, which was presented in a brand new venue, The Festival Theatre at The Kingfisher, University of Galway.
In 2023, we continued our commitment to bringing international acts to our beautiful city on the Wild Atlantic Way. From Australia to South Africa, United States to New Zealand, this year brought performers from all hemispheres to the City of Tribes in an extraordinary creative collision. From South Africa’s Baxter Theatre Centre’s touching story Life & Times of Michael K, to the explosive tunes of New Zealand Band Fat Freddy’s Drop, to French parade-masters Planete Vapeur conducting a giant dragon across the city, to legendary Californian rock band Pavement headlining the Heineken Big Top.
GIAF’s commitment to pushing artistic boundaries was evident in the diverse range of art installations featured throughout the festival. David Mach’s The Oligarch’s Nightmare featured a Range Rover in mid-explosion at the Festival Gallery. Diana Copperwhite’s thoughtful large-scale paintings in Onomatopoeia and Lorraine Tuck’s powerful photo-documentation of her family in Unusual Gestures opened eyes and minds at the Printworks Gallery, while Wordspace a seaside installation with audio from Grafton Architects wowed audiences on Salthill Promenade. Local and international artists captivated audiences with their ability to challenge perceptions and evoke emotions.
Volunteering and Professional Development Programmes
This year, the festival continued its community engagement initiatives, offering two cultural developments programmes, the Visual Arts Programme and SELECTED, as well as engaging the services of over 470 volunteers, who welcomed and guided audiences.
In line with our continued commitment to environmental responsibility, the festival expanded various sustainable practices in 2023. From eco-friendly event planning to promoting green initiatives, we strived to minimise our ecological footprint and inspire positive change. Some of the ways we did this included a further increase in the use of green energy and recycled materials, the introduction of Green Ambassadors, the extension of our reusable cup scheme and a fully sustainable ‘Heineken Bar’, as well as encouraging festival-goers, staff and volunteers to practise sustainable behaviours.
In 2023, GIAF strengthened its dedication to accessibility by implementing a comprehensive set of measures aimed at maximising the inclusivity of the arts. This included offering 30% of the programme free of charge, prioritising affordability in ticket pricing, presenting a multitude of events catered to non-English speakers, introducing a Festival Gallery audio guide, conducting a touch tour of the Festival Gallery exhibit, strategically dispersing events throughout the city, and enlisting over 470 volunteers to assist and guide attendees.
Through GIAF’s partnerships, the festival is able to bring a unique blend of cultural experiences to Galway, enriching the community and fostering connections on a global scale. This year GIAF and University of Galway announced a new 5-year strategic partnership. The new partnership will see a further expansion of the university’s association with the festival’s First Thought Talks programme, further development of the GIAF archive housed in the university library, and further development of the SELECTED and Volunteer programmes among other initiatives. GIAF and University of Galway will also explore how the partnership can help to develop the creative industries in the West to foster career pathways for University of Galway graduates.
Following its sell-out run at Galway International Arts Festival in July, Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival’s revival of Enda Walsh’s Bedbound toured to Dublin’s 3Olympia Theatre in August, where it also sold out. Bedbound was also streamed worldwide on demand in November. Landmark is our long-standing co-producing partner on many of our theatre productions and we wish Anne Calrke and collaborators all the very best in 2024 as Landmark celebrates their 20th anniversary.
In January 2023 GIAF’s Artistic Director Paul Fahy received a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French Ambassador to Ireland Mr Vincent Guérend. The honour was bestowed on Paul in recognition of his significant work in the arts and the promotion of France-Ireland relations and the contribution of his work to the cultural influence of France in Ireland and beyond.
We would also like to wish Luke Murphy, Will Thompson and all the creative and production team of Volcano the very best as the show makes its US premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse as part of the Under the Radar Festival in New York this month. Volcano had its world premiere at GIAF 2021 and also played the Festival last July.
As we close the chapter on 2023, Galway International Arts Festival is already looking ahead to GIAF 2024, with acts already announced including Jess Glynne, Passenger, Gavin James, The Saw Doctors, KETTAMA, Kneecap, and Block Rockin Beats, who will all play the Heineken® Big Top next year. Tickets are on sale now.
The 47th Galway International Arts Festival will take place from 15-28 July 2024, with the full Festival programme announced in May 2024.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to making the 2023 Festival such a resounding success. Galway International Arts Festival would like to acknowledge the support of its principal funding agencies, the Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland and Galway City Council, its Education Partner University of Galway, its Drinks Partner Heineken® and the Dean, Galway for their support of the Festival Gallery. A big thank you to all our sponsors, patrons and friends and especially all our great audiences in 2023. Here's to another year of creativity, connection and cultural celebration in 2024.