Work on the Galway City Museum’s new spaces and new exhibitions really kicked off this week with staff getting into makeover mode for the upcoming Dancehall Days exhibition.
Dancehall Days is just one of the exhibitions being put together by the team at Galway City Museum, with the assistance of the public, as part of the 'People's History of Galway Project' which will open this summer.
Picture the scene: It's 1964 in Galway and there are so many people in the Seapoint ballroom in Salthill that they are climbing through the windows trying to get in. The act on stage that night was The Clancy Brothers, fresh from their hugely successful US tour, but this story, as recalled by Seapoint stallwart Ann Fahy, could have related to any night during the heyday of the sixties, when some of the country's leading showbands visited Galway.
The Dancehall Days exhibition will look at an era in Irish history when the shackles of the fifties were being cast off, as mass emigration slowed, and Lemass' Ireland opened itself to the wider world. To add to the showband collection, the museum staff are now looking for a loan of that 'special dress' and a pair of shoes that would have been worn out to a dance at Salthill. According to contributors to the exhibition a common custom would be for sisters to share the same pair of dancing shoes, with one sister leaving them in a hole in the wall for the other to collect on her way to the dance.
In a time before MTV and mass media, showbands represented major stars such as Brendan Bowyer, Butch Moore and Dickie Rock. Better still, these big names were accessible on a Sunday night at the ballroom (dances were not permitted on Saturday nights as the youth of Ireland were expected to be fresh for Mass on Sunday morning ).
Galway musician, Jimmy Higgins, who was central to some of the leading showbands of the time, such as The Raindrops and The Millionaires, is now lending his famous trumpet for this special museum exhibition. Along with his two brothers, Paddy (who played drums ), and Francie (who played the saxophone and is now sadly deceased ), Jimmy is fondly remembered by all those who attended the many dances throughout Galway.
The Museum is currently closed while staff are working on their major redevelopment, but when the doors open again this summer the Dancehall Days exhibition will form a central part of the first floor and Jimmy's trumpet will be on show, as well as many other objects relating to the swinging sixties and the showband era in Galway.
Galway City Museum is looking for a loan of shoes and a dress that would have been worn to the Seapoint or Hangar ballrooms in the sixties to include in the upcoming exhibition. Contact can be made via email to [email protected]. Galway City Museum has also set up a special blog for the public to track 'behind the scenes' developments over the next few weeks, simply log onto www.makinghistorygalway.blogspot.com