GIAF’s First Thought programme explores topics of the moment

13 June 2023

First Thought, the Galway International Arts Festival talks platform, is back with more intriguing conversations this July!

Presented in association with University of Galway, each year First Thought brings together voices from Ireland and across the world to debate, discuss and explore some of the big topics of the day.

These events will take place largely in O’Donoghue Theatre, University of Galway and will also include University of Galway academics, including John McHale, Professor of Economics at University of Galway and first Chair of the Irish Fiscal Council, Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Professor Emeritus of History at University of Galway, and Jessica Traynor, acclaimed poet and Writer in Residence at University of Galway.

Lindsey Hilsum, Fintan O’Toole, Garry Hynes, Elaine Burke, Martha Wainwright, Diarmaid Ferriter, Gaisu Yari, Martin Curley, Grace Rothwell, Lucy Caldwell and Wendy Erskine are amongst this year’s guest speakers.

The First Thought programme is curated in collaboration with broadcaster and historian Catriona Crowe.

This year they include:

Ukraine v Russia - Channel 4 News’ International Editor Lindsey Hilsum in conversation with Fintan O’Toole.

The Hospital Manager who ‘Doesn’t do trolleys’ - Grace Rothwell in conversation with Danielle Barron.

Two Economists - John McHale in conversation with John Fitzgerald.

I Left my Heart in Afghanistan - Gaisu Yari in conversation with Róisín Ingle

Brian Cross in conversation with Ray 'Wingnut' Cuddihy

From Galway to Global; The G-Town Records’ Story - KETTAMA and Shampain.

What did we learn from the Decade of Centenaries? - Diarmaid Ferriter, Anne Dolan and Gearoid O’Tuathaigh in conversation.

What Exactly is Irish Neutrality? - Diarmaid Ferriter, Conor Gallagher, Catherine Connolly and Fintan O’Toole in conversation with Katie Hannon.

Stories I Might Regret Telling You - Martha Wainwright in conversation with Mary McGill.

In the Fires of Rebellion and War - Garry Hynes in conversation with Fintan O’Toole.

Can We Get Housing Right? - Rory Hearne, Michelle Norris and Hugh Brennan in conversation with Kathy Sheridan.

Culture? What the Hell! - James Shapiro in conversation with Chris Morash.

For Tech’s Sake - Elaine Burke in conversation with Ciara O’Brien.

Housing and Creativity - Bridget Mae Power, Emmet Kirwan and Betsy Cornwell in conversation with Rory Hearne.

Three Female Versions of Belfast - Lucy Caldwell, Wendy Erskine and Rosemary Jenkinson in conversation with Jessica Traynor.

“The Best Medicine for a Sick Healthcare System” - Professor Martin Curley in conversation with Paul Cullen.

The return of the much loved Vinyl Hours a series of talks with music aficionados in conversation with music maestro Tiernan Henry.

John Crumlish, Chief Executive of Galway International Arts Festival, said, “This programme will inform, present lively debate and provide food for thought for all those who attend. It covers big issues with experts, discusses creativity with some fascinating individuals and hopefully delivers fresh perspectives on a range of topics.”

Dr Paul Dodd, Vice-President Engagement at University of Galway, said: “The variety and quality of contributors continues to excel and offers a respected insight into challenges facing society, alongside a healthy dose of entertainment and fun. Once again we are delighted to see University of Galway academics adding to the talent pool at the festival.”

A copy of the Full Galway International Arts Festival programme can be seen HERE

First Thought day by day:

Saturday 22 July:

Lindsey Hilsum

Ukraine v Russia

in conversation with Fintan O’Toole

Lindsey Hilsum is Channel 4 News’ International Editor. Her book, In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, won the 2019 James Tait Black Prize for biography. Recently she has reported on the war in Ukraine, and the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan. She has covered the major conflicts and refugee movements of the past three decades, including Syria, Mali, Iraq, Kosovo and the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Her first book was Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution.

Saturday 22 July:

Grace Rothwell in conversation with Danielle Barron

The Hospital Manager who ‘Doesn’t do trolleys’

Waterford General Hospital does not have patients lying on trolleys awaiting admission to beds, unlike most other hospitals in the country. Grace Rothwell, General Manager of the hospital from 2019–2023, will tell us how she has done this.

Sat 22 July:

John McHale in conversation with John Fitzgerald

Two Economists

John McHale, Professor of Economics at University of Galway and first Chair of the Irish Fiscal Council, and John Fitzgerald, Adjunct Professor of Economics at TCD, and first chair of the National Expert Advisory Council on Climate Change, will have a conversation on the Irish economy and all of the issues pertaining to it, like sustainability, migration, planning, housing and many others.

Sat 22 July:

Gaisu Yari in conversation with Róisín Ingle

I Left my Heart in Afghanistan

Gaisu Yari left Afghanistan during the chaotic US departure in August 2021. A long-time activist for women’s rights, she had been Commissioner for Women’s Employment in the Afghan Civil Service before the Taliban returned to power. Now living in the US, Gaisu is Director of Afghan Voices of Hope, a unique oral history project for Afghan exiles.

Sat 22 July:

Brian Cross in conversation with Ray 'Wingnut' Cuddihy

Internationally renowned photographer, film maker, DJ, and chronicler of hip hop music and culture Brian Cross [AKA B+] will exhibit his work at Galway City Museum during GIAF 2023. Cross has directed several films and music videos and was the director of photography for Academy Award-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. He is currently Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California San Diego. B+ Ghost Notes: Music of the Unplayed photography book was published by University of Texas Press in 2017.

Sun 23 July:

From Galway to Global; The G-Town Records’ Story

KETTAMA and Shampain

Established in 2021 G-TOWN RECORDS was founded by DJs KETTAMA and Shampain. With four releases to date and sold-out shows all over Europe this duo have maintained a deep rooted connection to their hometown Galway. In advance of his headline show at the Heineken® Big Top KETTAMA, one of dance music’s most in-demand and prolific names, is joined by Shampain in conversation to discuss their creative process as musicians, producers and DJs.

Sun 23 July:

Diarmaid Ferriter, Anne Dolan and Gearoid O’Tuathaigh in conversation

What did we learn from the Decade of Centenaries?

We have come to the end of a serious interrogation of the years of our so-called revolutionary period. How did we do? Are we wiser than when we started? Were sacred cows demoted and unheard voices restored? Does our new knowledge enrich our understanding of the present? Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern History at UCD, Anne Dolan, Associate Professor of Modern Irish History at TCD, and Gearoid O’Tuathaigh, Professor Emeritus of History at University of Galway, will discuss.

Sun 23 July:

Diarmaid Ferriter, Conor Gallagher, Catherine Connolly and Fintan O’Toole in conversation with Katie Hannon

What Exactly is Irish Neutrality?

Irish neutrality has become a topic for discussion since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. How did we become neutral? In what way are we neutral? Does neutrality need legislative or constitutional protection? Katie Hannon will moderate a discussion between Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD, Conor Gallagher, Crime and Security Correspondent with The Irish Times and author of a new book on neutrality, Catherine Connolly T.D. and Fintan O’Toole author of We Don’t Know Ourselves.

Tues 25 July:

Martha Wainwright in conversation with Mary McGill

Stories I Might Regret Telling You

Stories I Might Regret Telling You is Martha Wainwright’s heartfelt memoir about growing up in a bohemian musical family and her experiences with love, loss, motherhood, divorce, the music industry and more. Martha digs into the deep recesses of herself with the same emotional honesty that has come to define her music.

Fri 28th July:

In the Fires of Rebellion and War

Garry Hynes in conversation with Fintan O’Toole

A century ago, Ireland was reborn in the fires of rebellion and war. The playwright Sean O’Casey bore witness to these seismic events and dramatised them as the Dublin Trilogy, three great works of Irish theatre, full of history, humanity and humour — The Plough and the Stars, The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock. 100 years later, Garry Hynes has woven O’Casey’s three plays into an epic Druid theatrical event of conflict, national identity and the human toll of war. Garry Hynes will discuss these plays and incredible production.

Sat 29 July:

Can We Get Housing Right?

Rory Hearne, Michelle Norris and Hugh Brennan in conversation with Kathy Sheridan

Lack of affordable and social housing remains the country’s biggest crisis, causing homelessness, misery, forced emigration, labour shortages and widespread child poverty. This panel will discuss remedies for the situation, with Rory Hearne, Assistant Professor of Social Policy at Maynooth University and author of Gaffs: Why no one can get a house and what we can do about it; Professor Michelle Norris, Director of the Geary Institute at UCD and an expert on social housing; and Hugh Brennan, CEO of O’Cualann Cohousing Alliance, in conversation.

Sat 29 July:

Culture? What the Hell!

James Shapiro in conversation with Chris Morash

James Shapiro, renowned Shakespeare scholar and author of 1599, will discuss his forthcoming book on the US Federal Theatre Project [1935–39], a glorious attempt to spread affordable theatre among all classes and races, which fell foul of the House Un- American Committee. [The quote above was from an unnamed congressman opposed to the supposed Communist tendencies of the Project.

Sat 29 July:

For Tech’s Sake

Elaine Burke in conversation with Ciara O’Brien

Elaine Burke, former editor of Silicon Republic and now co-host of the podcast For Tech’s Sake, will enlighten us about the many technological developments we need to know about, like AI, Chatbots, the current turbulence in Big Tech, including Elon Musk’s madness, kids with smartphones watching inappropriate stuff, social media problems and much more.

Sat 29 July:

Housing and Creativity

Bridget Mae Power, Emmet Kirwan and Betsy Cornwell in conversation with Rory Hearne

How is the housing shortage affecting artists? Is lack of housing damaging creativity and forcing artists to leave the country? Does having to constantly move disrupt their activities? Rory Hearne, host of the podcast Reboot Republic, will interview Galway singer- songwriter Bridget Mae Power, Dublin actor Emmet Kirwan and Galway-based writer Betsy Cornwell [who has turned an old knitting factory into a refuge for single mothers] about their experiences.

Sun 30 July:

Three Female Versions of Belfast

Lucy Caldwell, Wendy Erskine and Rosemary Jenkinson in conversation with Jessica Traynor

There has been a remarkable flowering of female writing in Northern Ireland over the last 20 years. Much of this writing focuses on the endlessly interesting city of Belfast. Three fine writers will discuss their versions of Belfast: Lucy Caldwell, author of These Days, the story of two sisters living through the Belfast Blitz of 1941; Wendy Erskine, chronicler of complicated lives in East Belfast in Sweet Home and Dance Move; and Rosemary Jenkinson, author of the recently-staged Silent Trade, a play about modern trafficking of women to Belfast.

Sun 30 July:

“The Best Medicine for a Sick Healthcare System”

Professor Martin Curley in conversation with Paul Cullen

Ireland is dangerously behind the rest of Europe in providing a digital health records system. Patients are being put at risk because of the persistence of paper records and lack of communications systems. Professor Martin Curley spent four years designing a new system for the HSE, only to find himself obstructed by ‘bad actors’ with ‘no vision’. He resigned in frustration in January of this year, and had the courage to speak out about his reasons for leaving.

17-30 July:

Vinyl Hours is a series of talks with music aficionados in conversation with music maestro Tiernan Henry. Spend an hour on an aural journey of treasured musical memories with special guests, who reveal their go-to playlists, the soundtrack to their lives and explore what exactly it stirs within them; fun, heartbreak and revolution. Playlists available on Spotify, followed by Festival First Thought Podcasts.

Guests will be announced on 19 June.

Booking

Book Online at giaf.ie/talks

Or in person from Wednesday 28 June at the Festival Box Office, 31. Eyre Square

Galway International Arts Festival would like to acknowledge the support of its principal funding agencies the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland; its Drinks Partner Heineken; and Education Partner University of Galway.