Balmy sunshine, as it so often does, greeted the launch of Galway Arts Festival on Monday evening and a large crowd of artists and arts aficionados thronged the Radisson Hotel for the event.
Artists Brian Bourke and Jay Murphy, musician Julie Feeney, playwright Enda Walsh, actor/writer Pat Kinevane, Macnas director Noeline Kavanagh, and poet Mary O’Malley were among the many notable creative talents gracing the occasion.
Onstage, London’s Brassroots ensemble kept the revellers royally entertained with some rollicking jazz and funk.
As the Brassroots finished their set and began packing away their instruments in preparation for their gig later that evening in the Róisín Dubh, it was time for the speeches to commence.
Festival director Paul Fahy noted that a key focus for this year’s event was for the Festival to generate its own work which it achieved in partnership with other organisations.
He cited the flagship production of Enda Walsh’s Misterman starring Cillian Murphy staged in partnership with Landmark Productions and also the “magnificent” Absolut Festival gallery, located in Galway Shopping Centre, and realised in conjunction with festival sponsor Absolut Vodka.
“The gallery is an amazing feat for all of our fantastic production and technical crew, I really want to acknowledge their hard work in delivering that vision,” Fahy declared. “It’s a huge space, big enough to fill a football pitch, it’s 40,000 square feet, it’s vast in its scale and ambition.”
The gallery is hosting several of this year’s arts festival exhibitions, most notably The Road, featuring new work from one of Ireland’s foremost artists, Hughie O’Donoghue.
Mayor Hildegarde Naughton was also on hand to say a few words. Highlighting the value of the festival to the area, she observed that during last year’s event the direct spend in Galway city was €20 million.
“As Ireland has gone through one of the darkest periods of her history,” she said, “it has been terrific to see that one of the few shining lights projecting a positive image of Ireland internationally is the impact the arts have created on international stages across the world.”
Arts festival chief executive John Crumlish revisited his Leaving Cert biology for a vivid analogy of the festival’s role. Noting how nerves have synapses which they rely on to transmit signals, he stated that the arts festival’s job was to be like a synapse in getting the work from the artist to the audience.
The guest of honour for the evening was Arts Council chair Pat Moylan. She saluted the festival’s “mouthwatering cocktail of the very best of Irish and international art,” and its “alluring array of artistic attractions to entertain and challenge audiences from home and abroad”.
She also praised the festival’s commitment to new work, noting that it was “allowing creative buds to blossom”. Despite the country’s economic problems she stressed that, “We must continue to nurture and encourage the arts”.
While she outlined the economic contribution the arts can make to society, she noted, “the chief value of an arts event like this is to uplift our hearts and nourish our souls -and don’t we need that more than ever at this time!”
With the speeches concluded, the crowd dispersed, keenly looking forward to having their souls nourished and hearts uplifted by the myriad events to come