About a quarter of a century ago, I remember talking to a doctor in north Galway whose dream it was to make his native Glenamaddy the live music centre of the country. At the time, the only suitable large concert venue capable of handling the mega acts was the then Point in Dublin (now the 3 Arena ). This was also a time when the country had effectively staged Europe’s biggest live music concert in a converted stables in rural Co Cork. Dr Paddy Geraghty owned a massive riding stables on the outskirts of the town and he often stood there and imagined it full to the brim, a sort of musical Newgrange attracting thousands of fans from far and wide.
Geographically it was an excellent location, that would no doubt have necessitated the serious upgrading of those famous four roads to Glen, but it was one that very nearly happened. We excited hacks were salivating at the prospect of the world’s top bands performing down the road. But alas, it was not to be, for a variety of logistical reasons.
Yet in the intervening years, the west has still remained free of a big outdoor music venue and so many of the top top acts just pass us by and ensure that West of Ireland music fans have to leave the province to hear the big acts. Even the successful Westport festival was moved to Killarney, where it had little luck.
Noel C Duggan’s feat in pulling off the Eurovision in Millstreet gave great encouragement to promoters keen to stage events outside the Pale, and apart from the odd gig at a GAA ground somewhere, outdoor music is reserved in the main for the east of the country.
So it is never a surprise when someone sees a vast open space and imagines it full of people rocking and cheering along to an artist of their choice. They are reminded of the Field of Dreams, the line ‘build it, and they will come.’ But it was still a surprise this week when the City Councillors were asked to consider inviting Bruce Springsteen to play at Galway Airport this summer. Carnmore is a vast open space, but perhaps its openness is exactly what would make it less than ideal as a concert venue, certainly in the short term.
Venues for concerts have to be seriously vetted for health and safety and capacity before they would be given a licence to hold major events and the airport site is no different. It would certainly pass on grounds of access being adjacent to the motorway but these evaluations would take some time and should be done properly. There is merit in the City Council and County Council initiating this process and then when complete, submitting the ground to promoters for consideration for future use.
While the proposal to invite Springsteen to play in Galway this summer seems like a non-runner, there is no doubt that opening up the debate on the use of the former airport will now look at such possibilities. We have to welcome the City Council and Cllr Pearce Flannery for ensuring that such business does not pass Galway by. Galway likes to think of itself as a city that embraces music and cultural events, but the sad reality is that we don’t have a non-canvas venue capable of holding more than 600 people comfortably.
Such discourse regarding the absence of such a venue may lead Galway to be able to pitch for such business in the future and add another string to our cultural bow.