The inaugural Galway Sea Festival, which hopes to bring in a higher number of tourists during the June bank holiday weekend by holding up to 50 events promoting the city’s maritime history, culture, and environment, has been awarded funding of €25,500 by Galway City Council.
The festival, which will take place from Friday, May 1 to Monday, June 3, has been organised by a not-for-profit committee, set up by the Galway Chamber of Commerce. In his presentation to the council, chamber president and committee chairman, Declan Dooley, told the council that the initial total budget for the festival had been €100,000 but that this had been trimmed down to €86,000. He added that funding of €35,000 was being sought from the city council and it is hoped this figure will be matched by the business community who have already contributed €14,000 for the event. The committee has also received €17,000 grant from the Irish Public Bodies Gathering fund.
The council members were further told that the festival will help fill the void left by the Volvo Ocean Race and that it is intended that it would be made an annual event. Although 95 per cent of the events are being held in the city this year, in subsequent years, if the festival is successful, it is hoped that more and more events will be held throughout the county. Mr Dooley said significant coverage and promotion has already been secured, in particular with eGroup Communications in the US which has sent out an e-zine to 200,000 tourism groups in the US and Europe.
Welcoming the festival, Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab ) described it as a “great start to the season” and appealed to “everyone to get behind it” as these types of events are “very important for the city as they bring in much needed cash to keep businesses open”. Echoing these sentiments, Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF ) said that it was “paramount for councillors to encourage continuous festivals in 2013”. “We must continue to market and progress Galway, to utilise our connection to with the sea and rivers to bring people to the city,” said Cllr Crowe, before proposing that councillors agree to give €22,500 to the festival adding that this was the same figure given to the Galway Food Festival.
Despite also welcoming the festival, a number of councillors, including Cllrs Padraig Conneely (FG ) and Hildegarde Naughton (FG ), did questioned whether bodies such as Fáilte Ireland and the Harbour board had been approached for funding. Mr Dooley explained that Fáilte Ireland has been unable to provide funding because the IPB Gathering grant had already been awarded but that it has been “very helpful” by promoting the festival. The Harbour board was also approached and a request for funding is currently being considered. Mr Dooley added that the Harbour board has committed to providing areas for events, additional staff, and security railings. Following a 15 minute adjournment to discuss the issue, councillors returned to the chamber and unanimously agreed to give funding of €22,500 to the festival.
The festival will comprise four elements including ‘On The Water’ which involve a regatta with up to 150 boats taking part, Galway hookers and traditional boats, excursions and cruises on the bay, canoe polo, as well as opportunities to try out sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, water polo, and surfing.
There will also be an ‘On The Shore’ element involving a beach safari, beach horse riding, a craft and food fair at Salthill Hotel, a sandcastle competition, a tug-o-war competition and much more. The ‘On Deck’ element includes a guided tour of the RV Celtic Explorer and Irish navy vessal LE Aoife at the docks. The ‘About Town’ element will include events such as a seafood and music trail, Trad On the Prom, maritime and heritage walks, looped waterway walks, a guided tour of Mutton Island, West End evening entertainment, and lunchtime street theatre in The Latin Quarter.