GIAF 2020 Autumn Edition - it's on!

Talks and exhibitions - live in person and online throughout September

John Gerrard's Mirror Pavilion. Photographer: Colm Hogan

John Gerrard's Mirror Pavilion. Photographer: Colm Hogan

COVID-19 may have rendered Galway's summer festival season inert, but the city and its festivals are too resilient to be kept down forever, so for the first time in its 43 year history, the arts festival moves to the autumn.

The 2020 Galway International Arts Festival begins today and from now, until October, will hold visual arts events, exhibitions, theatre, and talks, physically and online. While a number of events are already sold out, there is still plenty to look forward to, and plenty to get involved in.

Mirror Pavilion

Mirror Pavilion by the artist John Gerrard, the centrepiece of the GIAF Autumn Edition, goes on display in the Claddagh today. It is a 7-metre cubed structure, with three sides clad in a highly reflective mirror, while the remaining wall is a high resolution LED screen.

The structure will host two artworks: Corn Work can be seen at the Claddagh Quay, Galway from September 3 to 26, while Leaf Work will be on display at Derrigimlagh Bog, Connemara, from October 11 to 31. The works reflect and respond to the landscape of both locations.

Mirror Pavilion was commissioned by the GIAF for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture. It will be powered by sustainable energy sources. The artist will be in conversation with GIAF artistic director Paul Fahy, about the Mirror Pavillion, in the Galway City Museum, today (Thursday September 3, 6pm ).

Find out more about the Mirror Pavilion.

Visual arts

Hughie O’Donoghue's Night Cargo exhibition (running September 5 to 26 ) and Bill Viola's Three Women (September 5 to 16 ) will be on display in the Festival Gallery.

Night Cargo Hughie O'Donoghue GIAF 2020

Night Cargo was inspired by the classic 1922 horror film, Nosferatu. In the film a vampire arrives on a trading vessel bringing plague to the town," said the artist. "I have always thought the film was an allegory of the First World War, but it was made in the years following the Spanish flu pandemic. My paintings and their large scale and metallic tonality were intended to mirror the visual sensation of the early cinema’s audiences' encounter with the ‘silver screen’."

The paintings in Night Cargo were made on re–proposed materials, tarpaulins, and sacks, a reference to the ongoing crisis of global sustainability, as well as to memory, via references to the sea.

Three Women is part of Viola's Transfigurations series, a group of works which reflect on the passage of time and the process by which a person’s inner being is transformed.

In a darkened space, a mother and her two daughters approach an invisible boundary. They pass through a wall of water at the threshold between life and death and move into the light, transforming into living beings of flesh and blood. Soon the mother recognises it is time for her to return, and eventually her children follow, each tempted to have one more look at the world of light before disappearing...

Gallery opening hours are Wednesdays to Saturdays from 12noon to 6pm, with late openings on Friday until 8pm. Sunday hours are 1pm to 6pm. Admission is free but ticketed to comply with public health and Government guidelines (maximum capacity 50 ), and to allow for social distancing. Visitors are advised to wear a face mask. Tickets are available via

First Thought Talks

Brexit, Trump, racism, Climate, and Covid-19, the major issues of our time, will be discussed and debated in the GIAF's First Thought Talks series. The talks will take place in the Black Box Theatre, but due to the pandemic, some guests may join in via video link. Furthermore, all First Thought Talks will be live-streamed on the GIAF Facebook and YouTube channels.

Pandemic Reflections 2: Covid-19 (5 September, 12.30pm ) with Prof Luke O’Neill, Dr Catherine Motherway, Prof Paul Moynagh, Dr Mary Favier, and David McCullough, will examine how Ireland managed Covid-19 and look at the latest science on the virus.

Black Lives Matter: Experiences of Racism in Ireland (Saturday September 5, 4.30pm ), with Tobi Lawal, Felicia Olusanya, Amanda Adewole, and Roisin Ingle, will hear from young Irish women about their experience of racism in Ireland.

The State of the UK (Saturday September 5, 8.30pm ) with John Lanchester, Fintan O’Toole, and Martina Fitzgerald, will ask, where next for a divided Britain as Brexit comes into full effect at the end of the year.

Turning towards the USA, The State of the US (Saturday September 12, 4.30pm ), will see Samantha Power (via video link ) in conversation with Aine Lawlor. Will Trump Win Again? (Saturday September 12, 8.30pm ) will see this question addressed by Irish-American and Democrat, Larry Donnelly of NUI Galway, in conversation with Marion McKeone.

Tickets for the talks are €10 each. Social distancing and Covid-19 protocols will be in place. Some talks will be live streamed and available on the GIAF YouTube channel and Facebook page. Some talks will be recorded and made available at a later date.

Online events

Some talks will take place online only. Pandemic Reflections 1: The Spanish Flu (Saturday 5 September, 10am ) with Dr Ida Milne, Fergal Bowers, and Dr Catriona Clear, which will look t what happened in Ireland during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and what, if anything, we can learn from it.

Italia 90 (Sunday September 6, 8pm ) with Colm Toibin, Eamon Dunphy, and Mark Duncan will examine the socio-cultural/political impact of the Republic of Ireland competing in the 1990 World Cup.

Does Culture Drive Human Evolution? (Saturday September 12, 10am ). Gaia Vince thinks so, as she will explain in conversation with Maureen Kennelly.

Placing Home: Hidden Stories by Sarah Hickson is free, online, exhibition, which brings together photographs that resonate exploring the theme of ’home’ with personal stories of displacement, migration, and belonging.

The exhibition refers back to Hickson’s Sounds Unseen, presented at GIAF 2018, and her work–in–progress exhibition at GIAF 2019. It looks forward to a new body of work which Hickson is creating for GIAF 2021 with people who have experienced, or are living in, Direct Provision in Galway.

Vinyl Hours - how to listen in

The Vinyl Hours events, where Julie Feeney, David Brophy, and Liz Nugent are sold out, but will be available to listen to via the GIAF's First Thought podcast from October 1. The First Thought Podcast is available on, Spotify, iTunes.

For more information and booking see


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