The King's Head Pub - a thirty year association with the arts in Galway

The King's Head pub in the heart of Galway’s Latin Quarter is steeped in more than 800 years of history. This landmark pub, which has been owned and run by the Grealish family since 1989, has created its own history with the arts in Galway - earning a wonderful reputation for live music, lunchtime comedy, and the outrageous.

In the early nineties, The King's Head became home to The Flying Pig Theatre Company, whose members included Noeline Kavanagh, Tommy Tiernan, Sonja Brodie, Phillip Sweeney, Maggie O’Sullivan, and Gary MacSweeney, plus many other budding creatives. Their gigs would take place in 'the back bar' of The King's Head, performing plays like the hilarious and entertaining Playboy of the European Community and Peig- The Musical.

Paul Grealish, owner of The Kings Head reminisces; "In the early nineties, with my brother Martin at the helm, The King's Head became a veritable hotbed of artistic endeavours, general mayhem and madness led by a group of talented actors and producers including and most notably, The Flying Pig Theatre Company. Flying Pig and others would write and rehearse upstairs in what was known fondly as the 'Sty in the Sky’ and perform at lunchtimes in the back bar. We adopted them as much as they adopted us. Despite or possibly because of, the organic nature of it all, their productions were legendary with queues often extending up the street to Griffin’s Bakery. We are delighted many of those emerging artists from those heady days continue to pursue successful careers in the arts in Galway and further afield, and have gone on to achieve wonderful things. Likewise we are delighted to continue our support for the arts in Galway”

Sonja Brodie who was a founding member of the Flying Theatre Company and has gone on to manage The Blue Tea Pot Theatre Company said; “In 1992, a group of us were intent on starting a theatrical revolution. With ‘theatre of the absurd’ in mind, Tommy Tiernan’s directorial debut saw two actors delivering Albee’s Zoo Story in their underpants at lunchtime to six bemused punters, three of which asked for their money back. Thankfully, the Grealish family did not prohibit our next endeavours, as our comedy troupe Flying Pig took flight in the back room of The King's Head with self-penned, under rehearsed, and highly improvised comedy plays such as Alas Poor Hamlet. This was at a time when Galway lacked suitable arts venues, so the back bar became home to our imagination and we were even inspired by the pub itself, producing a popular show in Oliver Cromwell The Musical featuring celebrity peasants. At its peak, there was such a buzz about The King's Head, with packed out shows, artists hanging out, and theatre companies commandeering the bar’s day time scene. Throughout it all, we were embraced by the Grealish family and their staff. And it has continued to this day, long after we have left to further our creative careers. Along with my fellow ‘piglets’ including Tommy Tiernan, Philip Sweeney, Noeline Kavanagh, and Gary MacSweeney, there is no doubt that where we are today, [all working in the arts] has been hugely impacted by those crazy, inspired years in The King's Head and the support and friendship Paul and Mary Grealish have given to us and many other artists.”

One of Ireland’s leading figures in comedy Tommy Tiernan has fond memories of The King's Head, “I would be lost without The King's Head. I started performing there 26 years ago and I am still going back. I have done stand up shows, improvised shows, Eamon Kelly, Sean O’Casey, and JM Synge shows there. They took us under their wing and thank God for that. And the adventure goes on, the space is still active. It is a wonderful thing to have right bang in the centre of town, an unpredictable platform where, from a stand up point of view, magic can happen.

"Galway would not have been in a place to win the 2020 City of Culture without three vital presences which have allowed artistic imaginations to develop over the last 30 years. They are Macnas, The Arts Centre, and The King's Head. Galway would not have the reputation it does without them. I am deeply indebted to Paul and Mary for their sustained patronage.”

Noeline Kavanagh, artistic director at Macnas says, “I have a long standing relationship with the Grealish family, including Martin and current owners Paul and Mary. I started my artistic career performing in The King's Head as part of a comedy group called Flying Pig, so it has a special place in my heart. Performing there was an absolutely awesome, life-changing experience for me. Over the years, The King's Head has evolved but I love the fact that they have continued to incorporate comedy and theatre into the venue. Paul and Mary have been such great advocates and supporters of the arts and it is greatly appreciated by myself and lots of other performers.”

Paul Fahy, artistic director for Galway International Arts Festival said, “The King's Head has been a very important venue and hub for Galway’s creative sector for almost 30 years. Paul and Mary Grealish have been great supporters for many artists, actors, comedians, writers, and companies over the years. Paul and Mary are passionate supporters of the many artists whose careers began and who continue to perform in the famous Galway venue, and continue to show great support to a new generation of artists. The Ruby Room is the perfect venue for Gerry Mallon’s daily comedy showcase that is the Laughter Loft, a perfect start to an audience’s festival day.”

The Kings Head continues its long tradition of lunchtime comedy in The Ruby Room this summer with another great line-up confirmed for this year’s Galway International Arts Festival, hosted by Gerry Mallon. Gigs include Karl Spain, Foil Arms & Hog, David MacSavage, and Neil Delamere.

The GIAF Comedy gigs take place in The Ruby Room, Top Floor, The King's Head, 15 High St. Doors open at 12.30pm with the show beginning at 1pm. Tickets are priced at €12.50 and are available at the door only.


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