Looking Back on 10 Years of the SELECTED Programme

15 September 2020

Young artists and thinkers are the beating heart of any city and Galway is fortunate to have them in droves. Together with Education Partner NUI Galway, Galway International Arts Festival is proud to celebrate ten years of the SELECTED professional development programme for emerging artists, theatre makers, curators and producers currently studying at the university.

That’s ten years of going behind the scenes, heading out onto the streets, and being in the thick of the action at Galway International Arts Festival. Ten years of artistic and professional connections forged. Ten years of seeing the highest calibre art and performance from all over the world, right here in the city where the participants live, study, and work.

Invaluable Connections

SELECTED is centred around the three key aspects of professional networking, practical experience and aesthetic development. Under normal circumstances, the programme is a whirlwind two week intensive course which takes place during the Festival. Participants attend nearly every show on the programme and are offered a unique opportunity to see how a major festival is put together, thanks to workshops with festival organisers, Irish and international producers, and participating artists. Meeting the full creative teams behind world-class productions, students engage with some of the most inspiring artists and arts professionals from Ireland and around the world.

Students also hone key networking skills and gain invaluable professional connections. Candid conversations with experts at the top of their careers empowers young people to be courageous early in their careers and navigate common pitfalls, says Marianne Ní Chinnéide, Head of Production at Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway.

While many participants are pursuing degrees in the arts, the programme also draws students from fields not traditionally associated with careers in the arts.

“They see the hugely varied pathways people have taken to get to where they are,” says Ní Chinnéide. “It’s all about the imagining of roles, pushing yourself to areas not previously considered. Someone studying physics can see how they might transfer their skills to a career in sound or lighting design; someone studying IT might be drawn to social media arts marketing.”

Learning on and off-campus

Going from strength to strength, the programme has become further integrated into on-campus academic learning, drawing national and international students to study in Galway. The newly launched MA in Creative Arts Producing and Curating, which arose from the ongoing partnership between the University and the Festival, incorporates the SELECTED programme as part of the course’s career development module.

Benefits of the SELECTED programme extend long after the Festival draws to a close, thanks to the robust network of ‘SELECTED alumni’. “They have a shorthand because they’ve been through this programme together,” Ní Chinnéide says. “Students see people with similar backgrounds to themselves, who studied at NUI Galway, at the early stages of their careers in the arts and they say to themselves ‘oh this is possible.’”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year SELECTED transitioned online. The element of live performance and connection was sorely missed but the participants adapted ably. Thanks to their creative energy and the innovation of programme organisers, SELECTED 2020 were able to take part in online discussions and talks with playwright Dylan Coburn-Gray, photographer Sarah Hickson, GIAF Artistic Director Paul Fahy, GIAF CEO John Crumlish, and members of the Festival staff in marketing, resource development, and volunteer management roles.

Professor of Drama & Theatre Studies Patrick Lonergan said: "NUI Galway’s partnership with the Galway International Arts Festival has been of enormous benefit to our students during the last decade. The SELECTED programme shows them what is needed to produce work that will be celebrated for its excellence in Galway and around the world. It gives them an opportunity to learn from the best in the business – but also, very crucially, it allows them to aspire to become the best in the business themselves. Our work together shows that our students thrive when they are given opportunities to test their skills and knowledge in professional settings. Together, we are seeking to ensure that long-term sustainability of arts pratice, helping to produce the next generation of creative artists and entrepreneurs."

Marianne Ní Chinnéide said: “Over the last 10 years as the festival has kept on growing and growing, SELECTED has grown with it. The Festival is growing in a way that is very conscious and curated and thoughtful. It truly speaks to the kind of society Galway is now.

The colliding of arts forms is what makes GIAF what it is. Coming from a theatre background, I also see collision of forms within theatre itself, from to design, lighting, acting, to marketing. Festivals really allow you to engage with those art forms in a meaningful way.

In terms of professional development, you may not be planning on being a designer, but, if you want to be a director, it’s absolutely imperative you respect and understand these other fields. SELECTED fosters that respect.”

GIAF CEO John Crumlish said: “The SELECTED programme is one of the most important things we do. It is hugely important to us that we contribute to the process by which the next generation of artists, producers and curators fulfill their potential and become the best that they can be.”

SELECTED Manager Shelley Troupe said: “For the past decade, I have had the privilege of managing GIAF’s SELECTED programme. This incredible opportunity simultaneously affords young practitioners the opportunity to glimpse what it takes to produce a Festival of this magnitude and helps develop their own creative practice.

The importance of the professional networking aspect cannot be overstated, especially in this year as we brought the programme online. Over the years, students have gone on to intern or work for prestigious organisations such as New York City’s Irish Arts Center and taken up positions at GIAF itself as a direct result of their participation in the programme, showcasing the importance of the training and networking experience they receive as members of SELECTED."

What Participants Say

“The SELECTED programme teaches participants that hard work and teamwork make a festival successful. It gives people the opportunity to network, which is a fundamental skill in the industry.

We, the participants, were fortunate enough to be introduced to some of the most creative actors, producers and event organisers nationally and internationally known in this industry of arts and culture,” says Ciara O’Reilly, 2013 participant. In 2016-2017, Ciara toured to the U.S. with Galway International Arts Festival’s Rooms series by Enda Walsh. She now works at the Galway City Museum.

“I have always found GIAF to be an extremely accessible and generous organisation, but SELECTED gave me access to a whole new side of the Festival and allowed me to forge new relationships and partnerships with producers and organisations, many of which I still maintain today. Having backstage access to the calibre of talent the Festival hosts each year was an invaluable resource,” says Craig Flaherty, 2014 participant. Craig is a freelance creative producer who has worked with Druid Theatre and Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture.

“I would highly recommend the SELECTED programme to any student interested in the arts, regardless of their degree or masters subject. As a HR student, I quickly fitted in with the other participants and enjoyed a jam-packed fortnight of live music, theatre, street performances and exhibitions. My highlights were the open discussions with the decision makers. They gave great insights into how the festival comes together over the year, which has been very useful to me as I'm involved with various other projects and I've learned lots about festival financing and programming after being part of SELECTED,” David Flaherty, SELECTED 2014 participant and co-founder of Tuam Sugarbeat Festival. David has an MSc in Human Resource Management from NUI Galway.