Sensational shows & record-breaking attendance for 41st Galway International Arts Festival

1 August 2018

The 41st Galway International Arts Festival came to a close on Sunday 29th July 2018 following its biggest Festival to date and record-breaking attendance and box office. For the first time ever, the Festival broke a quarter of a million attendance with 252,748 taking part in over 200 events across the 14 days.

Over 600 participating artists from all over the world enthralled audiences attending performances, talks, concerts, street events and exhibitions. Attendance was up by 20% on 2017 and early estimates suggest that the two-week event will have an economic impact at least on par with 2017’s €29.5 million.

In what was a new and very welcome development at this year’s Festival, 145,000 flocked to the new Festival Garden on Eyre Square. The Garden was a huge hit with locals, visitors and young and old alike who enjoyed al-fresco dining with delicious food as well as occasional pop-up performances with guest artists.

Rave reviews flooded in for the world premiere of the Festival’s production of Incantata by Paul Muldoon, co-produced with Jen Coppinger. Described as ‘a remarkable piece of theatre’ (The Irish Examiner) and ‘visually stunning’ (The Guardian), Stanley Townsend’s outstanding performance was lauded as ‘electrifying’ (The Sunday Independent) and ‘compelling’ (The Guardian).

Irish National Opera and United Fall, in association with GIAF, presented Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, directed by Emma Martin and conducted by Peter Whelan. It was critically acclaimed as ‘an opera of intense, crisp energy’ (The Irish Times) with the Independent describing it as an ‘extravaganza’. The production will go on a nationwide tour in 2019.

John Crumlish Festival CEO commented: It was a privilege and a pleasure to present GIAF 2018, our most ambitious festival to date. It was wonderful to see audiences attending in such numbers and, on behalf of us all at the festival, I would like to say “thank you” to them, the artists in the programme and our many supporters and funders.”

Paul Fahy, GIAF Artistic Director, commented: “We are very grateful to all our artists and audiences for making the 2018 Festival such a memorable one. The extraordinary reaction to the various performances, exhibitions and events, the electric atmosphere around the city and the smiles on people’s faces as they embraced GIAF 2018 were all a joy to behold."

One of the Festival highlights saw thousands of people create two large-scale structures from cardboard as part of The People Build. French artist Olivier Grossetête and his team, together with the assistance of 400 volunteers, captured the hearts of audiences when they created two cardboard structures; one on Eyre Square inspired by St. Nicholas’ Church and the second at Waterside, a large-scale bridge which served as a testimony to the River Corrib viaduct, once part of the famous Clifden to Galway railway.

Huge crowds came out to watch the build, and the celebratory demolitions, which saw the cardboard structures tumble to the ground and vanish without a trace thanks to the support of event sponsors, Walsh Waste & Recycling, who recycled the 4 tonnes of cardboard.

Meanwhile, the inflatable walk-in sculptural maze, the Miracoco Luminarium, took up residence on Eyre Square for 9 days of the festival, and mesmerised all ages. The spectacular giant moon by artist Luke Jerram, depicting detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, delighted and amazed thousands of visitors.

The Heineken Big Top hosted 10 roof-lifting concerts, including sold-out concerts from Madness, Walking On Cars, The Stunning, Kodaline and Jenny Greene and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra as well as the only Irish concerts of the summer by The Flaming Lips and Canadian indie-sensation Caribou. The Festival’s biggest music line-up yet also featured the Irish premiere of the China National Traditional Orchestra.

Other highlights included two of the world’s top contemporary circus troupes, Australian companies Circa with their show Humans and Gravity and Other Myths with Backbone. International theatre highlights included The Fall from South Africa, The Aspirations of Daise Morrow from Australia, immersive theatre shows Gardens Speak, which depicted the human cost of war with stories from Syria and Flight, which told the story of two young boys fleeing Afghanistan, and the world premiere of Enda Walsh’s Office 33A all played to packed houses.

The Festival Gallery on Market Street enjoyed a constant flow of visitors who came to see exhibitions by David Mach, Sarah Hickson and Jennifer Cunningham. It is estimated that approximately 29,529 visited the gallery during the Festival.

The First Thought Talks series featured 18 talks and discussions exploring the theme of home. Launched by President Michael D. Higgins, the 43 participants included Catherine Corless, Andrew O’Hagan, John Lanchester, Roy Foster, Tomi Reichental, Paula Meehan and Diarmuid Ferriter.

Thousands of visitors from Ireland and across the world travelled to Galway for the Festival. In 2017, 37% of the Festival’s visitors were from outside of Ireland with 18% visiting from around Ireland and 45% from Galway.

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

GIAF 2018 – An Overview

  • 252,748 attendances at over 200 events across 32 venues;
  • 145,000 visited the inaugural Festival Garden in Eyre square;
  • Over 600 artists participated in the Festival;
  • 1,000 volunteers supported the Festival team over the two weeks coming from all four corners of the globe, from Korea to Canada and South America to Australia;
  • The Heineken Big Top, which is erected especially for the festival, featured its biggest line-up ever, with 10 concerts featuring a world-class music line-up including the only Irish concerts of the summer from The Flaming Lips, Caribou and Amadou & Mariam.

While the 41st Festival comes to an end, the work of GIAF continues, with plans already well underway for the 2019 Festival, which runs from July 15-28. Later this year GIAF will also present a First Thought Talks event in October. Full details to be announced.

Experience some of the highlights of GIAF18 here:

Watch the highlights video here

Watch all Festival videos here