Galway Fringe Festival, choc-a-bloc with artistic treats

THE GALWAY Fringe Festival will launch its programme this Saturday in the Mechanics Institute, Middle Street, at 6pm and the line-up is bursting at the seams with visual arts, music, comedy, theatre, and literature.

This is the fourth year of the festival, which has been going from strength to strength under the stewardship of founder and director, Claire Keegan. “I had lived in Edinburgh for many years and worked with the Edinburgh Fringe and felt a fringe would fit in really well in Galway,” she tells me during a brief lull in her hectic pre-festival schedule. “I took a chance on it and the first year there was a huge response. Part of the attraction is that it is on at the same time as the Galway International Arts Festival. That would mirror arrangements elsewhere, in cities like Edinburgh, Adelaide, and Melbourne, where you have main and fringe festivals running alongside each other. It’s kept going since then and it’s the same board as when we started, so we are well versed now in what works and what doesn’t.”

This year the Galway Fringe will host the Irish Assembly of Fringe Festivals in association with Galway 2020, on Saturday July 18. This networking event of Fringe producers and managers, with representatives of the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe festivals in attendance is the first fringe assembly of its kind to take place in Ireland.

“There are 250 fringe festivals around the world, and 13 in Ireland,” Keegan informs me. “We’ve got support from Galway 2020 for it and it’s great for us; consider that Dublin fringe is in its 20th year and we are only in our fourth so it’s great achievement for us to be hosting this and we are very excited about it. The delegates from Edinburgh and Brighton also run an organisation called The World Fringe, so it will give us that international platform and the assembly will be open to members of the public for the afternoon session.”

The Galway Fringe has also established 'The Galway City Gallery' at key venues around the city to host the work of over 70 visual artists. These works will be on display at the Snooker Hall, Victoria Place, and at the Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road. The Mechanics Institute Art Group will also exhibit work in Middle Street throughout the Festival.

“We have two large units in Galway Shopping Centre on Headford Road, one of which is showing sculpture by Eric Mullins and Lewis Goodman, the other is showing photography including a show just back from Shanghai by Diarmuit Grogan and William Hamilton and it is really beautiful,” Keegan enthuses. “The Snooker Hall in Eyre Sq is a huge space and we have been in there for the past ten days getting it ready – we had to take 10 skips full of stuff out of it! It will be fantastic, the location couldn’t be better! The visual arts is spectacular. We have well established artists like Joe Boske. We also have Sharon O’Malley’s work which has been donated to the State. We are showing it before it goes to Dublin which is a real honour for us. It covers the whole spectrum from installations, to video, photography, sculpture, drawing and painting.”

The Galway Comedy Club at the Stock Exchange on Shop Street, is to host the 'Best of Irish Comedy Awards' with a very competitive explosion of craic and laughter, over four nights from July 15 to 18 with the winner being announced on Friday 24. 

The Fringe Folk Music Festival will take place downstairs at de Burgo's, with the Festival Mainstage at the Victoria Hotel. Tom Portman will launch his new solo album White Crow during the festival in The Loft, with Citóg Records launching their debut CD compilation in Kennedy's Live on Eyre Square on Saturday 18 at 8pm. 

Kirwan's Lane Theatre at Busker Brownes will be the festival hub for a wide variety of drama from new and emerging playwrights. “We adopted Kirwans Lane Theatre as the name because of the history of a theatre having been there in 18th century with Humanity Dick and Wolfe Tone involved in it,” Keegan explains. “The theatre is exciting because all of the plays are new writing, we have writers like Seamus Scanlon, Alan Grant, from Sligo, and plays like The Imp from Belfast and Under Any Old Gum Tree from Australia, performed by Kieran Garvey.”

Patrick Kavanagh fans will be entertained by a concert of music, poetry, song and dance inspired by the Great War entitled Keep The Home Fires Burning, at the Harbour Hotel on Friday 17.

The Galway Fringe Festival runs from July 11 to 27. The festival box office is at the Galway City Gallery in Victoria Place. See www.galwayfringe.ie.

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