The 2013 Galway Arts Festival began at the Radisson Blu Hotel on Monday, with special guest Tim O’Connor, chair of The Gathering, declaring the festival officially open to the large crowd of assembled revellers.
While the arts festival opening has had an uncanny knack of occurring on sunny days amid rainy spells, oddly Monday saw the one cloudy day in our recent heatwave. Arts festival chief executive John Crumlish put a positive spin on the occurrence as he toasted the coolness of the occasion.
“This year's programme is our biggest yet with some new additions like the First Thought series which we are very excited about,” Mr Crumlish said. “In total there are over 190 performances, exhibitions, and talks in 29 venues over 14 days. We would like to thank all our funders, sponsors, and friends who made this possible and most of all we hope everyone who comes to the Festival enjoys it.”
Participating artists in Festival 2013 who attended the opening reception included Stella & Lou playwright Bruce Graham and theatre director BJ Jones from Northlight Theatre.
Actor Francis Guinan, who plays Lou, arrived in Galway with many family and friends from Chicago over the weekend. Francis, who is making his first visit to Ireland, is well known from the hit US TV drama Boss and was greeted by many fans of the show.
Internationally renowned artist John Gerrard, whose exhibition Cuban School is featured at the ABSOLUT Festival Gallery, was also in attendance, with friends and colleagues from Austria and London, as were Elena Zardini and Neil McConnon from London’s Barbican.
Chair of the Arts Council Pat Moylan, who is also the producer of the play A Galway Girl (running at the festival ), was with Galway actress Claire Barrett who stars in the show. Druid’s artistic director Garry Hynes and Druid manager Sarah Lynch were there, as was producer Tim Smith who had flown in from New York.
Earlier that afternoon sensational fire breathing show Dragons surprised crowds on the streets of Galway with an impromptu show of excitement and terror in equal measure from the world famous Sarruga from Barcelona.
Company members of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and director Michael Keegan-Dolan made a brief visit to the opening party prior to their Irish premiere of Rite of Spring & Petrushka, at the Black Box Theatre on Monday night.
Olwen Fouéré, whose show Riverrun, a Galway Arts Festival co-production with The Emergency Room, opens on Monday July 22, was with her producer Jen Coppinger. They were joined by Culture Ireland’s Christine Sisk and Ireland at Venice commissioner Elizabeth Francis.
Also present was playwright Christian O’Reilly and Blue Teapot director Petal Pilley. Blue Teapot’s superb production of O’Reilly’s Sanctuary is running throughout the festival and next year will see O’Reilly hook up with another arts festival company, Chicago’s North Light. His play Chapati will be staged by the company and will feature John Mahoney and Penny Slusher, who also features in Stella & Lou.
Speaking at the festival opening, Galway Arts Festival artistic director Paul Fahy stated:
“Festival 2013 features an international programme of artists from America, Australia, Africa and Europe, with a strong focus on Irish work and home-grown productions at the heart of this year’s programme. The Festival offers the very best of the performing and visual arts for two fantastic weeks this July.”
That it surely does. Go forth and enjoy people!