AFTER 18 months of diligent preparation, the Volvo Ocean Race is finally almost upon us, and the racing yachts’ arrival in Galway next week signals the commencement of two action-packed weeks of sailing, music, spectacle, culture, and craic in what will be Ireland’s largest ever free festival which is expected to bring 200,000 visitors to the city.
A strong arts and entertainments programme has been assembled around the event featuring a top-notch array of concerts, exhibitions, and street theatre, nearly all of it free.
Starting with the music programme there will be nightly concerts on the festival’s main Topaz Stage headlined by some of the best-known names in Irish music. Kíla get the ball rolling on Saturday May 23, and among those also lined up to appear will be Hothouse Flowers (May 28 ), Sharon Shannon (May 30 ), Mairtin O’Connor & Friends (June 1 ), Aslan (June 4 ), and the ever-popular The Stunning (June 5 ).
There are also strong support-acts on each bill – including the likes of Cora Smyth, the Mulkerrin Brothers, Tulla Ceili Band, and the Galway Gospel Choir - ensuring that audiences can truly savour a feast of fine music over the coming weeks.
Nor is the music programme confined to the Topaz Stage. The festival club house will also be hosting an array of DJs and live acts and there will be daily early-evening performances, commencing 6.30pm on the Breathnach Quay Stage (at the Race Village ) from the likes of Emmett Scanlan and Cuckoo Savante.
The Crane Bar has also put together an impressive line-up of gigs and sessions running throughout the festival. Artistes appearing there include Oregon’s Flat Mountain Girls, a high-energy old-time string band (May 27 ), rootsy country singer Huck Notari (May 28 ), Scotland’s leading Gàidhlig singer Julie Fowlis and her band (June 1 ), Lunasa duo Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely (June 3 ) launching their new CD On Common Ground and rockabilly outfit Dan Furey and the Haymakers (June 6 ).
Admission charges apply to most of the Crane gigs. For more information and tickets contact The Crane on 091 - 587419 or the Volvo festival committee.
There is also an exciting programme of exhibitions to look forward to.
Galway Arts Centre presents In Search of Utopia, a group exhibition featuring Dorothy Cross, Ailbhe Ni Bhriain, Louise Manifold, Michelle Browne, Cao Fei, and Dennis del Favero, in the Nuns Island Space of Galway Arts Centre from May 23 to June 6.
A new publication by Sean Lynch entitled A Preliminary Sketch For The Reappearance Of HyBrazil, will also be launched at the opening.
The exhibition takes as its starting point the visually rich image of the Volvo Ocean Race teams, all from different countries – hurtling across oceans, relying only on themselves to compete against each other to reach the final destination. It can be seen as a metaphor for how we are constantly searching for something better, always moving towards what we see as a preferable situation to that which we are in.
The teams stop at each point on the race, regaining strength and sustenance, only to pack up and race away once more. Each city on the route prepares for months in advance to welcome these weary travellers, only to have them move on again, in search of the ideal, the final point on the map.
Cao Fei’s video piece, entitled, Whose Utopia, is a video from a larger installation entitled Utopia Factory, which looks at workers in the Osram Lightbulb factory in the city of Guangzhou, in the Guangdong province in China. The Utopia Factory project explores the lives of these emigrant factory workers in the Pearl River Delta who represent the “backup force” for China’s competitiveness in a global economy; and how their lives and status have changed in the overwhelming trend of globalisation. Their utopia further exemplifies how the wider and wider globalisation is reshaping the Pearl Delta River area, and even the whole of China.
The exhibition includes two video works by Dorothy Cross: Ossicle, recently exhibited in Britain as part of the Darwin bicentenary celebrations, and Selam which is a beautiful, sensitive, look at the lives of a group from the Melanesian island of New Ireland in the Pacific Ocean.
Louise Manifold will present new work inspired by her exploration of the Arctic ‘Fata Morgana’ mirage phenomenon and, off-site, Michelle Browne will do a performance on Ladies Beach, Salthill at 2.30pm on Saturday May 30. Michelle Browne will present a musical performance inspired by the transatlantic voyage of artist Bas Jan Ader.
Meanwhile the Town Hall hosts Voyage/Landfall a joint exhibition of marine photography by Fiona Belton and Heather Greer which opens today at 6pm.
Fiona Belton is a sailor, a qualified skipper, who has spent most of her life living and working at sea. From carrying cargo to the Aran Islands in a Baltic trader to sailing schooners in the Americas and the Caribbean she has crewed aboard tall ships, ketches, cutters, tugs, fishing boats and with Green Peace in the North Sea and western Europe and has sailed two Atlantic crossings.
Heather Greer is a photographer living in Cleggan in west Connemara. Her exhibition, Landfall, focuses on the meeting of ocean and land - sometimes calm and serene, often wild and overwhelming. The photographs in her exhibition were all taken near her home, and they capture moments of interaction between sea and shore and of the momentary light changes between night and day. They have previously been exhibited locally in Connemara, and are sold internationally.
As well as the Arts Centre and Town Hall, arts aficionados can trace the Creative West Arts Trail throughout the city’s galleries and exhibition spaces featuring a broad range of work celebrating maritime culture.
Other nautical themed exhibitions to look out for include Ocean To City, a new exhibition by Mark Dwyer, which is on show at Judy Greene Pottery, Kirwan’s Lane, until Saturday May 30, and Yarn & Sail Unite, featuring 11 custom made rugs designed by Ger Labert, currently on show in the Radisson Hotel. The official opening is on Wednesday May 20 at 6pm.
Making Waves, a mixed media exhibition of work by more than 50 artists, including Leah Beggs, John Behan, Brian Bourke, John Coll, and Thelma Mansfield, opens in The Kenny Gallery, Liosbán Retail Park, on Saturday at 2pm.
Also as part of the Volvo Ocean Race, The Bold Art Gallery in Merchant’s Road will host a solo show by Vincent Killowry, An Post Stamp winner in 2005 and 2008, which opens on Friday May 22 at 6pm. Vincent will do a signing on Saturday 23 in the gallery from 11am to 12.30pm. The show runs until June 6.
For more information go to www.galwayvolvooceanrace.com