Galway International Arts Festival Unveils 2019 Programme

15 May 2019

World premiere of a new opera from INO; new plays from Druid, The Abbey Theatre and Rough Magic; new work from Enda Walsh, Alice Maher & Aideen Barry; Australia’s Sam Jinks, talks featuring Kate Mulgrew, Mary Robinson, Lydia Foy, Laurence Wright, and music from Burt Bacharach, Orbital and Robert Plant’s new project Saving Grace are just some of the highlights of GIAF 2019.

A brand new opera world premiere, the rock god that is Robert Plant playing a church, a new play from Druid, Joe Brolly on the Irish Border and the GAA, a once–in–a–lifetime chance to experience over 50 years of hits from one of the greatest songwriters in modern music, an enthralling exhibition by one of Australia’s most exciting and important contemporary sculptors, or weave your way through the streets of Galway grooving to Guru Dudu’s hand–selected mixtape of 70s, 80s and 90s hits. This is GIAF19 and more.

Over a quarter of a million people attended GIAF 2018 and building on that record-breaking success, GIAF today unveils its 2019 programme for the 42nd Festival. Featuring an exciting Irish and international programme of theatre, opera, dance, circus, music, street spectacle, visual art, and First Thought Talks featuring interviews and discussions on the theme of borders, GIAF 2019 will run over 14 extraordinary days from 15 – 28 July.

600 artists from Ireland and around the globe, from Australia to Africa and from Europe to the Middle East, will converge in Galway this July to be part of this internationally renowned annual celebration of the arts. At the heart of the GIAF19 programme are numerous collaborations and co-productions including world premieres presented in association with GIAF from Irish National Opera, Druid, and Rough Magic, as well as a work-in-progress of a new musical by Landmark Productions & GIAF and the chance to hear new work as part of the Druid Debuts staged readings. Following the recent UK premiere of Rooms at the Barbican, a new immersive theatre installation, Waiting Room by Enda Walsh, will also premiere in Galway this July.

The Festival continues to commission new work in visual arts and this year also sees the introduction of a new Festival Gallery in the centre of Galway city, which will be home to the centrepiece of the visual arts programme, a major exhibition on our fascination of the human figure from the renowned Australian artist, Sam Jinks. There’s also a sound and image fantasia from Alice Maher and Aideen Barry and this year the Festival commissions two artists; Olivier Grossetête (The People Build) and Sarah Hickson’s new work-in-development, inspired by people living in direct provision in Galway.

The ever popular First Thought Talks series of interviews, conversations and debates will this year examine the theme of Borders, whether it’s national borders, gender, political, wealth or health borders. Bringing together leading voices from Ireland and abroad, First Thought Talks will feature an expanded programme of 22 talks including a talk on possibly the single most important issue facing humanity, What Can We Do About Climate Change? by former President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. Other talks include Trump’s Wall with Marion McKeone and Larry Donnelly; How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir with actress Kate Mulgrew (Orange is the New Black, Star Trek); Where is Brexit Now? with Fintan O’Toole, and What Does Being Transgender Mean? with Lydia Foy.

World renowned artists will take to the stage of the Heineken® Big Top including Burt Bacharach, Orbital, Macy Gray, Villagers & John Grant. Robert Plant will play an intimate concert in St. Nicholas’ Church with his new project, Saving Grace, and The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland will play a tribute to John Williams as part of a wide and varied music programme.

GIAF continues to collaborate with international partners to bring new work to Ireland and thanks to an international co-commission with Adelaide International Festival and other co-producing partners, 2019 will see the return of Gravity & Other Myths with their spectacular new show, Out of Chaos... . The street spectacle programme will also see heartstopping acrobatics from Les P’Tits Bras on the streets of Galway.

Commenting on this year’s programme, Galway International Arts Festival’s CEO John Crumlish said:

‘We hope there is something for everyone in this programme. Whether you are interested in operas, orchestral work, new plays, music icons, contemporary art, a good discussion or street spectacle we are really looking forward to welcoming you to Galway this July for hopefully a very memorable two weeks.’

Speaking at the launch of this year’s programme, Galway International Arts Festival’s Artistic Director Paul Fahy said: ‘We are hugely excited with this year's Festival with so many collaborations and co-productions at the heart of the programme. This year also sees the introduction of a new Festival Gallery which will be a stunning new exhibition space in the centre of the city. Galway becomes a truly magical place for two weeks every July as some of the most brilliant artists from Ireland and all over the world arrive on our shores for a thrilling fortnight where great art, ideas and good fun are available in equal measure.'

  • Galway International Arts Festival continues to celebrate partnerships and support and encourage new work with Festival commissions and co-productions across both theatre and visual arts. GIAF has been the birthplace of many works that have gone on tour to great acclaim internationally.
  • GIAF continues to present exciting new work. The 2019 theatre programme alone includes five world premieres and four Irish premieres. Theatrical world premieres: GIAF continues its partnerships with INO and Druid with two exciting new works. Presenting with INO an explosive new opera Least Like the Other, searching for Rosemary Kennedy will trace the events in Rosemary Kennedy’s life creating a portrait of Americas in the 1940s and 1950s and with Druid, a new play by Brian Watkins Epiphany featuring three Tony Award winners – director Garry Hynes, and Bill Irwin and Marie Mullen who star in the show. Moonfish Theatre, GIAF and the Abbey Theatre in association with the Town Hall Theatre present Redemption Falls, adapted from the novel by Joseph O’Connor. Also from the Abbey Theatre, this time with Soho Theatre, a new work by Dylan Coburn Gray, Citysong, and a visceral story of one family’s will to survive, Cleft by Fergal McElherron, from Rough Magic and glór in association with GIAF and Kilkenny Arts Festival.
  • A very strong international theatre programme sees two companies return with new work after triumphant GIAF debuts in recent years, the spectacular Gravity & Other Myths with their jaw-dropping acrobatics in the European premiere of Out of Chaos… which wowed audiences and critics when it premiered at the Adelaide Festival in March and the Irish premiere of Kneehigh’s Dead Dog in a Suitcase [and other love songs]. Also featured will be an immersive video installation observing global conflict Now is the Time to Say Nothing from Caroline Williams and Reem Karssli (England / Syria) and Until the Flood, based on interviews following the 2014 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson (Dael Orlandersmith).
  • Irish theatre also includes: The Same by Enda Walsh (Corcardorca) starring Catherine Walsh and Eileen Walsh; audiences will have a chance to get a glimpse of a musical work-in-progress (which will have its premiere at GIAF 2020) from Landmark Productions and GIAF, Breakfast on Pluto based on the novel by Patrick McCabe; a dance and Irish language interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s Salómae created by Breandán de Gallaí (Ériu in assoc with An Taibhdhearc); from Decadent Theatre Eden by Eugene O’Brien; a fairytale collection by Oscar Wilde The Star Child (Galway Youth Theatre and Galway Arts Centre) and the return of the hugely popular staged readings series Druid Debuts.
  • A key element of GIAF, First Thought Talks, this year features an expanded programme of 22 talks. This series of interviews, conversations and debate will explore the theme of BORDERS, whether it’s national borders, gender, political, wealth or health borders and will include a talk on What Can We Do About Climate Change? by former President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.
  • First Thought Talks features academics, activists, architects, artists, theatre-makers, journalists and authors with participants including actress Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek/Orange is the New Black), Professor James Shapiro, author of The Looming Tower Laurence Wright, Lydia Foy, John Moran, Grace Dyas, Dael Olandersmith, members of the crew of the LÉ Samuel Beckett and Daniel Trilling are among an extensive number of leading international voices from around the world.
  • Following the huge success of the GIAF ROOMS series in London last month, the 2019 programme invites audiences to explore a new space, Waiting Room, where a young mother navigates the aftermath of a life ended. Written and directed by Enda Walsh, this sixth room in the series is designed by Paul Fahy, who has collaborated with Walsh on these works over the past five years.
  • The Festival Gallery is moving to a new home in the heart of Galway city and it will house an enthralling exhibition by one of Australia’s most important sculptors Sam Jinks, In the Flesh, which draws on our fascination with the human figure. GIAF has a long history of transforming spaces and for this exhibition will design and build a temporary new gallery space in the heart of Galway city, just off William Street.
  • A myriad of visual arts experiences can be explored at other venues across the city: a sound and image fantasia from Alice Maher & Aideen Barry 6SKIN; imPRESSions printmaking exhibition; an exhibition of new work which interrogates astronomical research from Chloe Brenan, Jane Cassidy, Louise Manifold & Teresa O’Brien; a duo exhibition from acclaimed artist Diana Cooperwhite and emerging artist Ciara Barker Reforming; Gathered from the Earth sculptural baskets from master craftsman Joe Hogan and The Paralleled Mind where Annlin Chao explores three different mindsets querying which is real and which is surreal.
  • GIAF plays a vital role in supporting new work in visual arts through Festival commissions. This year the Festival has commissioned two projects; a new spectacular architectural project from Olivier Grossetête (The People Build) and a new work from Sarah Hickson based on her work with people who are living / have lived in direct provision in Galway working across 2019 (showing work-in-development) and 2020 (with a major exhibition).

  • The Heineken® Big Top, the Festival’s iconic marquee music venue is located on the NUI Galway campus and is a firm Festival favourite amongst young and old alike. This year the Heineken® Big Top (co-produced with the Róisín Dubh), features an exciting line-up of Irish and international musicians, including Burt Bacharach, Bell X1, Two Door Cinema Club, Villagers & John Grant, Macy Gray, The Academic, Orbital, The Coronas, The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and Grammy-winning Saharan Blues band Tinariwen.
  • Other music highlights include: Joan as Police Woman, No Encore, Thanks Brother, Frank and Walters, Lisa O’Neill & Junior Brother, Hunn-Huur-Tu (traditional throat singers from Tuva), London Astrobeat Orchestra, Peggy Seeger, The Henry Girls, Lisa Lambe, Pillow Queens, Marieke Huysmans, Ezra Furman, Jack L & Pat McCabe, Robert Plant’s new project Saving Grace in the ambient surroundings of the 13th century St. Nicholas’ Church, Mick Flannery, Jerry Fish, Kojaque, Iarla Ó Lionáird and Steve Cooney, Sharon Shannon Mary Coughlan & Frances Black, Kíla, Ciaran Tourish & Kevin Doherty, Garadice, Greenshine and Galway Street Club as well as Traditional Music Showcases and DJ sets Live @ Electric.
  • An exciting international Street Art & Spectacle Programme sees the return of The People Build (France), heart-stopping acrobatics from Les P’Tits Bras on an enormous art nouveaux structure and the chance to sing and dance your way through the streets of Galway on a Silent Disco Walking Tour led by the hilarious Guru Dudu (Australia).
  • In 2018, 145,000 flocked to the inaugural Festival Garden on Eyre Square which proved to be a huge hit with visitors who enjoyed al-fresco dining as well as occasional pop-up performances with guest artists. The Festival Garden will return this July to Eyre Square and will also be home to Vinyl Hours, an engaging and aural journey where Festival artists will join in conversation about their most treasured vinyl memories as they play and speak about their favourite albums.
  • Comedy includes Andrew Maxwell and the much-loved Laughter Loft with MC Gerry Mallon whose guests include Foil Arms and Hog and Deirdre O’Kane.

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

For full Programme details, Festival updates and previews, visit

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