GIAF 2017 Year in Review

24 December 2017

A look back at GIAF’s festival, touring and First Thought Talks 2017 highlights.

From hugely successful international tours and coverage for GIAF productions in American Vogue, The New York Times and the New Yorker, to having its record-breaking festival named in The Guardian's Top 5 Summer Festivals in Europe, it's been quite a year for Galway International Arts Festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017.

Festival 2017 Highlights

The 2017 festival broke all records and was named one of the Top 5 Summer Festivals in Europe by The Guardian.

Olivier Grossetête's The People Build in Eyre Square in July 2017.

Festival 2017 broke box office and attendance records, making it the most successful festival to date.

724 participating artists enthralled audiences of 210,000, attending performances, talks, concerts, street events and exhibitions, representing an increase of 5% on last year.

Ticket sales were up by 19% on 2016 and the festival had a direct economic impact of €29.5 million, up from 2016’s €23.5 million.

Rave reviews also flooded in for the Festival’s world premieres. The Guardian lauded the Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival co-production, Woyzeck in Winter, describing the production as ‘Triumphant… brilliant… extraordinary’ while The Sunday Independent described the show as ‘a dazzling achievement.’

There was also widespread critical acclaim for GIAF’s first ever opera, The Second Violinist, produced by Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera. The Irish Times described it as ‘an extraordinary modern opera’ with The Guardian saying it was an ‘exhilarating blend of opera, theatre and film’.

Re-live the magic of Galway International Arts Festival's 40th anniversary festival with our highlights video below.

GIAF 2017 Touring Highlights

Galway International Arts Festival also had a very successful touring schedule in 2017, with co-productions opening in New York, Dublin and London, where they received rave reviews.

The Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival productions Arlington and Ballyturk by Tony Award winning playwright Enda Walsh opened the Abbey Theatre’s new season in February and March 2017.

The productions featured as part of the inaugural season of the theatre’s new directors, Neil Murray and Graham McLaren.

Charlie Murphy as Isla in the Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival co-production Arlington, which toured to the Abbey Theatre in February.

Irish Arts Review gave Arlington four stars, calling it an ‘utterly unforgettable experience’, while The Irish Times gave Ballyturk four stars, stating: ‘Shades of Vladimir and Estragon, by way of Morcambe and Wise, brilliantly colour this revived and recast take on Enda Walsh tale of creation and confinement.’

Galway International Arts Festival also took New York by storm in 2017, when Arlington went on to a four-week run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in May, and Enda Walsh’s theatrical installation Rooms, a Galway International Arts Festival production, opened at the future home of the new Irish Arts Center in Manhattan.

The productions caught the attention of New York critics, with American Vogue calling Arlington ‘beautiful’ and Rooms ‘haunting’. Arlington and Rooms made Critic’s Pick in The New York Times, which called Arlington a ‘riveting fever dream of a play’, praising its ‘bravura performances’, and Rooms ‘haunting’. The New Yorker praised the ‘beautiful ferocity’ of Charlie Murphy’s performance as Isla.

Patrick O'Kane as Woyzeck in the Landmark Productions and GIAF co-production Woyzeck in Winter.

Following a critically-acclaimed run at the Galway International Arts Festival in July, the Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival co-production Woyzeck in Winter wowed critics in London in September before going on to play Dublin Theatre Festival in October.

The production, which was co-commissioned by the Barbican, was lauded by UK critics following its UK premiere at the prestigious venue in London, with the Daily Telegraph describing it as 'beautifully staged and hugely impressive' and The Sunday Times calling it 'outstanding...breath-taking...glorious.'

First Thought Talks 2017 Highlights

In addition to the 17 event First Thought Talks programme held over one weekend of the festival in July, Galway International Arts Festival held its first US First Thought Talks in 2017, which was live-streamed from Manhattan and viewed by thousands of people around the world.

Adventurer and solo transatlantic rower Gavan Hennigan talked to award-winning author and journalist Belinda McKeon about his extreme adventures to date, in particular his solo transatlantic row, his motivations and his personal challenges.

Watch Gavan's First Thought Talk here.

Galway International Arts Festival also co-presented the 2017 Annual Seamus Deane Honorary Field Day Lecture, which played to a packed house at NUI Galway.

The lecture was delivered by Dr Bryan McMahon, lead author of the McMahon Report on Direct Provision, with the actor Stephen Rea introducing the event and offering a reflection on Hannah Arendt’s concept of “the right to have rights.”

And that’s not all…

Galway International Arts Festival CEO John Crumlish and Paul Fahy received honorary doctorates from NUI Galway.

John Crumlish joined the Galway 2020 board.

Galway International Arts Festival’s 2017 Visual Arts Exhibits were named in The Irish Times' Top 5 Exhibitions of 2017.

And, Galway International Arts Festival announced its involvement with a major new co-production starring Cillian Murphy. Grief is The Things with Feathers, a Complicité and Wayward Productions presentation in association with Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival, will have its world premiere in Galway in March next year before touring to the O’Reilly Theatre in Dublin. Tickets for the event sold out in three hours.

Looking forward to 2018

Preparations are well underway for the 41st festival, which takes place from 16-29 July 2018.

Dan Snaith's Canadian outfit Caribou will play their only Irish gig of 2018 at the GIAF Festival Big Top.

Acts already announced include the double-platinum selling indie rock band Walking on Cars and indie sensation Caribou (only Irish performance in 2018), who will both play headline gigs as part of the Live at the Festival Big Top programme.

GIAF will also present new Irish and international theatre, spectacular street art, the discussion platform First Thought Talks, and a stunning new circus show, Backbone from Australia’s Gravity & Other Myths.

Backbone is an amazing, no-frills, DIY circus show. Gravity & Other Myths' previous Galway visit in 2016, with the sell-out hit A Simple Space, wowed audiences and took the world by storm. With jaw-dropping virtuosity, thought–provoking conceits and extraordinarily disciplined teamwork and choreography, Backbone has taken contemporary circus to a whole new level. (Details yet to be announced.)

GIAF’s touring schedule also starts early in 2018, as GIAF bring their hugely acclaimed production of Ballyturk by Enda Walsh (co-produced with Landmark Productions) to St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York where it runs from 9-28 January 2018.

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