Paul Fahy, GIAF Artistic Director, Receives French Award

27 January 2023

Last evening, Galway International Arts Festival Artistic Director Paul Fahy, was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French Ambassador to Ireland Mr Vincent Guérend during a ceremony at the Résidence de France.

The honour is being 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.

Guests at the French Ambassador’s residence in Ailsebury Road included members of Paul’s family and friends with well-known colleagues from the arts world including Artistic Directors Garry Hynes, Druid; Fergus Shiel, Irish National Opera and Catriona MacLaughlin, Abbey Theatre. Also in attendance were Arts Council Director Maureen Kennelly; Jen Coppinger and Craig Flaherty, Abbey Theatre; Fergal McGrath Town Hall Theatre; Anne Clarke producer, Landmark Productions; and Susan Feldman and Erik Wallin from St. Ann’s Warehouse, Galway International Arts Festival’s primary US presenting partner.

Paul Fahy and GIAF team with the French Ambassador
Paul Fahy with GIAF colleagues and the French Ambassador

GIAF colleagues included John Crumlish, Gerry Cleary, Tracey Ferguson and Elizabeth Duffy along with Festival Board Chair Dr. Patrick Lonergan from University of Galway. Actor Marie Mullen who has just returned from an 18 month-long run of The Music Man on Broadway was also present with her husband the actor Seán McGinley; and the broadcaster and historian Catriona Crowe.

Speaking upon receiving the award Paul Fahy said, “It is a huge honour to receive the Chevalier de lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres. I want to thank Ambassador Guérend and the French Ministry of Culture. I feel very humbled by this gesture and award. It has been a huge pleasure over the years working with so many wonderful artists, writers and performers and a joy to present the very best of French culture to Irish audiences, building links between Ireland and France and establishing long lasting connections with French artists.”

The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) was established in 1957 and is awarded by the French Ministry of Culture to recognize eminent artists, writers, and scholars for their efforts in promoting the awareness and enrichment of France’s cultural heritage throughout the world.

The award has been bestowed on other well-known international figures in the arts world including actors Cate Blanchett, Jude Law, George Clooney and Uma Thurman; filmmakers Ang Lee and Tim Burton; composer Philip Glass; dancer Rudolf Nureyev; authors Kazuo Ishiguru and Alice Munro; and Ireland’s Van Morrison, Neil Jordan and most recently Garry Hynes in 2022.

Paul Fahy at the French Ambassador's Residence
Paul Fahy wearing Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres at the French Ambassador's Residence

For the past 17 years and through the long-lasting collaboration with the French Embassy, Paul Fahy has encouraged and developed the participation of French artists in the Festival, particularly in the field of street theatre with major productions such as the remarkable collaborations with French artist Olivier Grossetête for The People Build, a huge community project bringing hundreds of people together to make large scale constructions from cardboard boxes of well know city landmarks. These commissions in 2017, 2018 and 2019 included constructions celebrating Galway’s bell tower of St. Nicholas’ Church, and the Aula Maxima at the University of Galway and the old River Corrib Viaduct part of the Galway to Clifden railway line. Other French spectacle highlights include Les P’Tits Bras’ shows Behind the Scenes and The Scent of Sawdust brought audiences heart-stopping acrobatics echoing the world of 1900’s circus; Transe Express mechanical constructions of Chariot of the Sea and Giant Divas wove their way through Galway’s streets while their large-scale aerial performance Mobile Homme saw performers lifted over 100 feet in the air on a giant telescopic crane to create a breath-taking human mobile in Eyre Square; Les Philébulistes’ shows Hallali and Arcance fused acrobatics and construction; Malabar’s spectacular Dragons delighted and terrified audiences while Les Lendemain Les Pepones acrobatics on a spectacular outdoor rig at Eyre Square and Compagnie Ieto’s remarkable contemporary circus at the Black Box Theatre thrilled audiences in equal measure; French visual artists Louise Bourgeois’ autobiographical drypoint series; Sophie Calle’s video installations; Frank Morzuch’s lyrical and entrancing installation working entirely with natural materials; and Henri Matisse’s Drawing with Scissors.