ARTISTS, DANCERS, playwrights, directors, and top academics all had a dream - the need to fulfil their ability and create something that would not only impact at home, but abroad too.
The Galway Arts Festival’s First Thought series not only attempts to examine the common thread coursing through these innovators but also invites audiences to participate in the debate on the creative process as a whole, looking not just at the cultural realm but also at social, civic, and educational issues, at how talent can be nurtured to produce the game changers of the future.
The arts festival began its experiment with the First Thought series, in association with NUI Galway, last year with a number of lectures, talks, panel discussions, and interviews aimed at exploring the nature of creativity and how it can be encouraged and progressed.
With rooms packed to capacity and audiences queuing to get in it became clear there was a major appetite for debates of this nature. This year organisers have expanded First Thought significantly, shining a spotlight on areas outside of the arts such as education, public spaces, the media, young digital creatives, the Diaspora, and various entrepreneurs and innovators.
Much of the success of First Thought is down to audience participation and this year this access will increase ten-fold with more opportunities for Q&A sessions and the online streaming of a number of discussions.Creativity As Galway Arts Festival chief executive John Crumlish explains: “The EU says creativity and innovation will be a key economic driver, it’s enshined in the Lisbon Treaty. We feel there should be a lot more talk about creativity, how it can be nurtured. So this year we’re really going for it, taking it beyond culture. We‘re going to have five panel discussions.
“The One Right Answer examines if there is a place for creativity in education. Is there one right answer? Should we be looking at alternative answers? Common Ground looks at how we approach our public spaces. How are we creatively looking at public spaces? What do people in other countries do? These spaces belong to us all, so what are we doing about it? Are we respecting them?
“Another panel discussion, Thicker Than Water, is about how we are connecting with the Diaspora in this year of the Gathering. How can we use our Diaspora as an economic driver going forward?
“Life In The Old Dog Yet looks at how traditional media is creatively trying to adapt to a digital age. The challenge is huge for traditional media but the only answer is going to be in creativity.
“There is also a talk - Young Guns - on how young people are interacting creatively, making livelihoods for themselves online. James Whelton of Coderdojo, the computer coding clubs, will be there. He was named one of Forbe’s magazine’s ‘30 under 30’ to watch. He started the coding clubs not to teach people coding but to bring kids together who were interested in the same thing. Also on this panel will be Jonathan Cloonan, head of digital strategy worldwide for Oglivy and Mather, New York, and Galvea Kelly from Oranmore who is Revlon’s global digital marketing manager.”
Enda Walsh, Garry Hynes, and Terri Hooley
“There will also be a series of interviews with creatives from the cultural sphere, in particular people who have brought culture overseas,” says Mr Crumlish. “We have Enda Walsh - one of Ireland’s most celebrated playwrights who has written the hit musical Once ; artistic director and co-founder of Druid, Garry Hynes, is going to interview Marie Mullen, actor and co-founder of Druid. They’re both Tony Award winners.
“There is also Terri Hooley of Good Vibrations Records, the man who discovered one of the best pop bands of all time, The Undertones. There’s also going to be a whole series of Backstage At The Festival talks. So it’s a big programme this year.”
Hearing and learning from the stories of these game changers is what these interviews are all about, according to Mr Crumlish who added that they have all done something radically different.
The Galway Arts Festival also believe the next game changer could be in the audience, listening and questioning, or if the discussion is streamed he/she may be at home watching it somewhere. For the first time the arts festival will be streaming a small selection of the First Thought discussions on its GAF TV section of its website as well as a number of websites abroad meaning it will reach a far greater audience outside Galway (see www.galwayartsfestival.ie for further details ).
“There will be two audiences involved in these talks, one that is sitting in the room, and one that is sitting at home, but both can equally tune into it,” says Mr Crumlish, “It creates as brand new idea of what is the Galway Arts Festival audience. It’s very important to create a platform for these discussions and talks. The audience is a key factor in that in terms of the Q&As and the thing about the online is that the conversation can continue long after the actual session has stopped.”
Mr Crumlish adds that the First Thought section of the festival will develop further. There is plenty to learn from these discussions which often take a life of their own.
“We don’t know where it’s going to go,” he says. “We’re very fond of saying we don’t know what the answers are but we’ve a fair idea of the questions.”
The majority of First Thought events take place on Saturday July 20 and Sunday July 21, with internationally acclaimed author Colum McCann talking about his new novel Transatlantic on Tuesday, July 16.
See www.galwayartsfestival.ie and the Galway Advertiser for more details.