How many more giants can Galway bear to lose this year? The year is but a child yet the city has seen enormous figures in the areas of sport, culture, media and the arts robbed from us way before their time. Galway is a unique mix, a place that does not adore heroes easily nor suffer fools gladly. To earn kudos in a chosen field, one has to be adored by some, maybe scorned by others and despised by some more. The mantle of greatness does not come easily in this neck of the woods.
Despite this, the city has been fortunate to have many people we can call greats. People who, were they not there tomorrow, would be sorely missed. People who have in some significant way, made a contribution to the identity that is Galway. They are people who have thrown some strange herb into the melting pot of this city and county and created a stew that has had thousands flocking to sup it for the past few decades.
Mike Diskin was one such person. He was a giant literally and physically who helped create the dynamic arts scene in Galway. And make it accessible to all. He certainly was one who did not suffer fools gladly, and was confident in his own belief that inclusivity was the key to it all. His strong stance on Project ‘06 six years ago was one such example. His opening up of the Town Hall to a great mix of shows, local, national and international made the venue one of the best in the country and his loss last weekend will be sorely felt.
But typical of him, he was forthright about his illness and left behind a varied programme for this year so that his passing would not disrupt matters substantially. Ironically, I was on stage at the Town Hall last weekend with my own local drama group Compántas Lir, as his colleague Joan Higgins led a beautiful tribute and minute’s silence to him on the other side of the curtain. And as she spoke, I looked up into the cavernous labyrinthian darkness of the theatre and imagined that Mike’s spirit will forever live on in the place.
He put his heart and soul into the venue and its ideals and it was to those bricks, mortar, and curtains that he devoted his days during the last period of his life, when even serious illness could not prevent him from turning up for work.
Galway has been seriously denuded of many greats this year. John Arden also passed away late last week, another gem hidden among our midst, who maintained his beliefs and his dogged determination to right wrongs right up to his last. Just six weeks ago, he penned 1,000 words for me in these pages highlighting how dangerous Galway is for wheelchair users.
To Mike and John and all the other greats who have passed on this spring, we should try to maintain their ideals so that the role they have played in making this a place we want to call home, will never be forgotten. Farewell to you both, and thanks.