Forget Garth Brooks - visit Galway instead

Galway is synonymous with festival fun, and July signals an intoxicating mix of summer festivals that attract thousands of visitors to our city every year.

 In fulfilling all the criteria for cultural tourism, Galway is blessed. One of the fastest growing areas of tourism with a reputed 40 per cent of Europeans visiting for cultural reasons, Galway must be the flagship for Ireland.  This month alone sees the big three kick off the summer -  The Galway Film Fleadh, The Galway International Arts Festival, and Galway Race Week.  

 Like most success stories, all three started from humble beginnings. The Galway Film Fleadh, now in its 26th year, grew from showing a film at the arts festival. By its nature it may not be as populist as the arts festival, but it has become the country's major platform for the Irish film industry. More than just a festival, the fleadh is a working business that provides opportunities for Irish filmmakers to network and pitch projects with attending producers and financiers in the industry.

Recently we had Traidphicnic in Spiddal, celebrating traditional music, art and culture in Spiddal, while delivering a different event was the Galway Garden Festival in the stunning surrounds of Claregalway Castle. Both the garden festival and this weekend's one-day Currafest Music Festival also raise money for charity.

However it is the Galway International Arts Festival that remains the centrepiece of all festivals in Ireland. It has had its share of critics in recent times, but its visitor numbers speak for itself.  Last year some 165,000 people attended festival events, and this year CEO John Crumlish is hoping to match last year's figure of €20.1 million generated for the local economy.  A cultural institution in the city which is slickly run without losing its vibrancy, it is a festival that has flourished as it has developed, attracting the widest possible audience - some 20 per cent from overseas, 40 per cent are locals, and the remaining from outside the west.

 And finally this month, those still looking for an adrenalin rush, can head to Ballybrit for the Galway Races. The grand-daddy of them all - at 144 years old and still rocking - the Galway Races remain the best loved of all race meetings in the country where fashion stakes rival those at the bookies.  

 Yes, we are spoilt for choice here in the west. We should never take this array of culture for granted, but celebrate it, enjoy it, promote it, and savour it. Not only vital for the local economy, these events are hugely important for our quality of life and also our identity.   Garth Brooks fans could do a lot worse than come to Galway instead.

Linley MacKenzie


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