Free family fun and more at the Galway International Arts Festival

It's behind you! Four-year-old Esme O'Connor from Hollymount enjoying the Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon, measuring seven metres in diameter and featuring 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, pictured in Shop Street, Galway, as part of Galway International Arts Festival. Photo: Andrew Downes, Xposure.

It's behind you! Four-year-old Esme O'Connor from Hollymount enjoying the Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon, measuring seven metres in diameter and featuring 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, pictured in Shop Street, Galway, as part of Galway International Arts Festival. Photo: Andrew Downes, Xposure.

Galway is the place to be for young and old alike as this year’s Galway International Arts Festival prepares for its busiest weekend yet with so much to enjoy until Sunday July 29.

This year's programme is full of free, outdoor, and family-friendly options for all ages. In a major new development this year, Eyre Square, in the heart of the city, is now a new festival hub with almost every inch of it bustling with activity. This weekend it’s the place to be for children and families. The brand new Festival Garden is open daily from 12noon to 10pm offering a relaxing space to discover the magic of community. You can also get refreshing drinks as well as every sort of food from sweet to savoury.

Children and adults alike are invited to immerse themselves in the unique, sensory experience of Miracocco Luminarium, a large inflatable walk-in sculptural maze with various chambers flooded with light and colour. Guaranteed to delight all ages, it is open from 11am-8pm Friday July 20-Saturday July 28. Tickets €5 and children under 2 go free. Over the weekend you can also enjoy some incredible street spectacle with Close Act's illuminated stilt-walking creatures, Birdmen, who will roam the streets of Galway. Friday – Sunday (various times ).

There’s also the Museum of the Moon, a spectacular giant moon featuring detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, which is on display in NUI Galway's brand new Human Biology building from 11am-7pm each day until July 29. Free.

GIAF is also bringing back the hugely popular The People Build for two live builds. It won the hearts of Festival audiences in 2017 and has captured the imagination the world over. From Friday – Sunday it will see hundred of volunteers creating two large-scale and highly ambitious structures solely from cardboard. The two structures will be constructed on Friday & Saturday from 11am – 4pm at Eyre Square and at Waterside. On Sunday July 22 the public will joins forces in a massive celebratory demolition as the cardboard buildings will come tumbling down. The structure at Waterside will be demolished at 3pm and the Eyre Square demolition time is 6pm. Free.

Ten headline music acts will take to the stage in the Heineken Big Top including Gavin James (Friday July 20 ), one of the world’s best live bands, The Flaming Lips (Thursday July 26 ) and Canadian outfit Caribou (Saturday July 28 ). The line-up also features The Stunning, Madness, Kodaline, Walking on Cars, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and DJ Jenny Greene.

This weekend will see the return of the hugely popular 'First Thought Talks' strand. This year it will examine the theme of ‘home’ in all its many forms. President Michael D. Higgins will launch this series of thought-provoking talks with a meditation on the idea of home on Saturday July 21st. First Thought Talks 2018 features 18 talks from academics, activists, architects, reporters, poets and writers with 43 guest speakers.

Next week, audiences can look forward to thrilling acrobatics in Circa’s Humans, the Irish premiere of the opera Orfeo ed Euridice and lots more.

Meanwhile the Festival Gallery at the Connacht Tribune’s former Print Works on Market Street has been transformed for a major Festival Commission by Turner-prize

nominated artist, David Mach and also features work by Sarah Hickson and by Galway artist, Jennifer Cunningham. An extensive visual arts programme features a total of nine exhibitions across galleries throughout the city. All free.

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

To view the full programme see www.giaf.ie or call 091 566 577. In-person bookings can be made at the box office in the Galway Tourist Office on Forster Street or at the Festival Kiosk in Eyre Square. The festival runs from this Monday July 16 – Sunday July 29.

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