The Galway Arts Festival said it is “surprised at the outburst” of Fianna Fáil Cllr Michael J Crowe regarding the Festival Big Top and The Saw Doctors.
The festival committee has moved to clarify the situation and added that it is still waiting to hear back from Cllr Crowe about a meeting he requested with them during the summer.
In July, Cllr Crowe publicly demanded to know why The Saw Doctors did not hold their 20th anniversary concerts in the Galway Arts Festival Big Top. He said this was an opportunity for the arts festival to “get in a substantial amount of money but it was not taken up”.
The Bohermore-based councillor said a request from the Saw Doctors was put to the festival committee through the proper channels but was rejected. Cllr Crowe also called for a meeting with the festival manager, John Crumlish.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Cllr Crowe raised the issue again. He said: “I would have great difficulty in supporting the arts festival bid for funding due to the fact that the docs were not accomodated in July”.
He questioned the need for the festival to receive council funding until an explanation was given as to why The Saw Doctors were not given use of the Festival’s Big Top for their 20th anniversary concerts.
In a statement to the Galway Advertiser, a Galway Arts Festival spokesperson said he wanted to clarify any confusion that “may still exist” surrounding this matter.
“Ollie Jennings, manager of The Saw Doctors made a request to Galway Arts Festival in May 2008 to festival artistic director Paul Fahy, to use the Festival Big Top for a Saw Doctors concert,” the statement read.
“At that time the Big Top was booked for a European engagement on the dates in question. The Festival Big Top was offered to Mr Jennings for any dates at any other time of the year. Mr Jennings declined this offer.
“When difficulties arose for The Saw Doctors with the Salthill Park venue, which had been announced as the venue for the band’s sold-out gig, the band had to seek an alternative site in the city at short notice.”
A representative of The Saw Doctors approached the arts festival to explain their predicament and asked if the festival could look at making the Big Top available. The festival was aware the band and management were in difficulty and made arrangements to delay the departure of the Big Top in Fisheries Field by two days to accommodate The Saw Doctors’ concert.
The Festival also made the necessary arrangements with the Gardaí, NUI Galway, the Big Top stage and lighting suppliers, security, and made significant rearrangements with the festival’s production and technical teams in order to facilitate this request.
The Saw Doctors’ management were made aware of all these arrangements and the Big Top was offered to Mr Jennings on Wednesday July 16 “at a fee as he had requested previously through the media”.
“Mr Jennings, however pursued alternative arrangements,” the statement continued. “A court hearing occurred regarding an objection to a new site at St Enda’s School in Salthill on Monday July 21. Mr Jennings spoke of the festival’s Big Top non availability on his initial request in May, however he made no reference to the festival’s new offer of the Big Top.”
The festival spokesperson added: “Mr Crowe claimed he had been waiting for five weeks for a response from the festival in relation to this matter. Following written correspondence regarding this festival managing director John Crumlish contacted Cllr Crowe on August 5 requesting a meeting regarding his public representations of The Saw Doctors through the local media and has yet to hear back from him.”