The 40th Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF) came to a close on Sunday evening following its biggest festival to date.
Record-breaking box office and attendance figures made the 40th Festival the most successful yet. 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 early estimates suggest that the two-week event will have an economic impact at least on par with 2016’s €23.5 million. Thousands of visitors from Ireland and across the world travelled to Galway to be part of the 40th anniversary celebrations.
Rave reviews 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.’ Featuring an all-star cast, including Camille O’Sullivan, Patrick O’Kane, Rosaleen Linehan and Peter Coonan, Woyzeck in Winter continues GIAF’s strategy of touring new work, travelling to The Barbican, London in September and also playing as part of Dublin Theatre Festival in October.
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’.
Galway International Arts Festival 2017 – An Overview
210,000 attendances across 33 venues;
724 artists attended the Festival from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Sierra Leone, South Korea, South Africa, Syria, The Netherlands, UK and USA;
A record-breaking number of almost 600 volunteers supported the Festival team. They came from all four corners of the globe, from Korea to Australia, and from Canada to South America;
The Absolut Big Top, which is erected especially for the festival, featured a world-class music line-up, including the legendary Brian Wilson who performed Pet Sounds;
Approximately 100 articulated lorries were required to transport equipment;
30,000 spectators watched The People Build, one of the most exciting free outdoor events ever seen in Eyre Square;
Many well knows stars of the arts world attended the Festival, including the novelist John Grisham, actors Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Rea and Charlie Murphy.
Experience some of Galway International Arts Festival 2017's highlights here:
More GIAF 2017 Videos
John Crumlish CEO commented: “We are very grateful to the Festival audience for coming out in such numbers and reacting so positively to the programme. It made for a great 40th birthday.”
Paul Fahy, GIAF Artistic Director, commented: “We are absolutely delighted by the extraordinary reaction to our 40th Festival programme,” stated Artistic Director Paul Fahy. “The atmosphere and sense of excitement around the city was fantastic and it was such a thrill to see audiences respond so well to this year's programme. We are very grateful to all our artists and audience for making this Festival such a memorable one."
Ulster Bank’s Interim Director of Customer Experience and Products, Joe Heneghan said: “Ulster Bank is proud of our strong relationship with the Galway International Arts Festival. It’s been truly exciting to witness audiences that were moved and enthralled by new ideas and creativity because at Ulster Bank, we embrace a culture of meaningful innovation for our customers and our communities. We’re delighted that the 40th Festival has been such a resounding success and I want to thank all those involved in making such a fantastic programme this year.”
Other theatre highlights included Kneehigh Theatre’s production of Tristan & Yseult, the world premiere of Branar’s How to Catch a Star and Druid’s production of Crestfall. In what was a very special theatrical moment, The Abbey Theatre’s production of Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints kicked off its week-long GIAF run in Tigh Joe Mac’s pub on Inis Mór, one of the most visited islands on the Wild Atlantic Way. It subsequently played six pubs throughout Galway city and county, including one of Galway’s oldest pubs, Tígh Neachtain. Writer Roddy Doyle was in attendance for the performance in Hughes’s Pub and for one of the Festival’s Vinyl Hour sessions where he discussed his favourite album.
The middle festival weekend saw one of the most exciting free outdoor street events transform one of Galway’s landmark locations. As part of the Festival’s free programme of events, and with the help of over 150 volunteers, an incredible cardboard building – inspired by the Aula Maxima in NUI Galway - rose up into the Eyre Square skyline. Unquestionably one of the Festival highlights, Olivier Grossetête’s The People Build together with Transe Express’s Mobile Homme wowed spectators. The cardboard building stood tall on Eyre Square, while a giant human mobile was suspended from a 100-feet crane at the other end. A celebratory demolition event took place the next day, which saw the cardboard building tumble to the ground and vanish without a trace thanks to the support of event sponsors, Walsh Waste & Recycling, who recycled the 1.6 tonnes of cardboard.
Music highlights included Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson and his 10-piece band performing Pet Sounds in the Absolut Big Top as part of the 50th anniversary celebration tour, the joyous voices of South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Korean songstress Songhee Pansori Lab. Also in the Absolut Big Top, the final weekend saw audiences celebrate the 40th Festival weekend party, when The Coronas and 2 FM DJ Jenny Greene, together with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, played two spectacular roof-lifting performances to sold-out crowds.
The Festival Gallery on Market Street enjoyed a constant flow of visitors for Brazilian Artist Ana Maria Pacheco’s powerful exhibition, Dark Night of the Soul and Ailbhe Ní Bhriain’s Inscriptions. Pacheco was in Galway for the opening of the exhibition. Also in attendance for the visual arts programme was internationally renowned Irish artist, John Gerrard, whose exhibition Solar Pavilion / Flag was a special commission for the 40th Festival. Other visual arts highlights included After the Raft of Medusa from UK/Australian artist John Beard.
The 2017 First Thought Talks programme featured a series of conversations with academics, activists, architects, artists and authors on the theme of power. It featured 17 events with 40 panelists including writer Colm Tóibín, RTÉ’s Washington Correspondent Caitriona Perry, Psychologist Maureen Gaffney and Syrian Architect Marwa Al-Sabouni.
The Festival’s limited edition 40th poster, which featured poster images from the 40 years of the Festival, proved to be a huge success and is still available to buy online here.
While the 40th Festival comes to an end, the work of GIAF continues, with plans already well underway for the 2018 Festival. At the same time, the team continue working towards what they expect to be their most ambitious programme to date, when Galway hosts the European Capital of Culture in 2020.
Galway International Arts Festival would like to acknowledge the support of its principal funding agencies, the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland and Festival Partners Ulster Bank, ABSOLUT and NUI Galway.