All eyes are on the City of the Tribes, as the Galway International Arts Festival takes over the parks, rivers, bars and venues of the western capital from Monday. Will it be a tasting platter to whet the appetites for Galway’s turn as European Capital of Culture in 2020? Or simply the usual (and usually amazing) medley of great theatre, street spectacle, intriguing talks, musical moments and quirky surprise? Only one way to find out: go see. And while you’re there, don’t miss:

Cardboard craic

Build it up, then knock it down: hanging out in the specially created Festival Gardens on Eyre Square, and watching swarms of kids making a mad castle out of cardboard boxes was a highlight last year. No wonder Olivier Grossetête’s The People Build has been invited back to do it all again. Bring your kids to get stuck in to the cardboard craic on July 19th, and the even more fun demolition on July 21st. Serious young builders will also enjoy the workshops from July 14th-18th. Free.

On the water

Singer, sailor and pianist, Marieke Huysmans travels the world’s oceans, giving free concerts from her boat. Yes, her boat. Catch her Pianocean at The Docks at 3pm and 5pm each day from July 20th-27th. Free.

Marieke Huysmans travels the world’s oceans, giving free concerts from her boat. Catch her Pianocean at the Galway arts festival
Marieke Huysmans travels the world’s oceans, giving free concerts from her boat. Catch her Pianocean at the Galway arts festival

Work in progress

It’s always exciting to see shows in development and, alongside Druid’s annual staged readings of brand new plays (already sold out), this year you can catch Bob Kelly and Duke Special’s take on Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto, as it prepares for its Galway 2020 turn, July 19th and 20th. Tickets €20. Bragging rights from having seen it first? Free.

You can catch Bob Kelly and Duke Special’s take on Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto, as it prepares for its Galway 2020 turn, July 19th and 20th.


You can catch Bob Kelly and Duke Special’s take on Patrick McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto, as it prepares for its Galway 2020 turn, July 19th and 20th.

Art moments

Sam Jinks at Galway’s transformed post office is the main art event, and the post office itself promises to be well worth a look, but despite not having a permanent dedicated contemporary arts space, the festival packs in a lot of exhibitions. See Diana Copperwhite and Ciara Barker at 126, Alice Maher and Aideen Barry’s filmic collaboration at NUI Galway, and Making Space, celebrating the anniversary of the lunar landing at the Galway Arts Centre. All free.

Devil Halfway, 2010 — Sam Jinks at Galway’s transformed post office is the main art event. Photograph: Courtesy of Sam Jinks
Devil Halfway, 2010 — Sam Jinks at Galway’s transformed post office is the main art event. Photograph: Courtesy of Sam Jinks

Border thoughts

Donald Trump may have told the Taoiseach that the Irish Border “will work out”, but the GIAF First Thought talks are investigating the whole issue of borders, in the widest possible sense throughout the festival. Talks by Diarmaid Ferriter, Mary Robinson and Fintan O’Toole are already sold out, but there’s plenty more to intrigue. TV pundit Joe Brolly and sports historian Paul Rouse look at the Irish Border and the GAA on July 20th, while staying on the sporting theme, a panel explore whether sport in Ireland is unifying or divisive on July 21st. Then discover if John Moran, head of the new Land Development Agency, and Orla Hegarty, assistant professor of architecture and planning at UCD, can get to grips with one of the national scandals – and crises – of our age: housing, on July 27th. Tickets €10.

John Moran, of the new Land Development Agency, and Orla Hegarty of UCD address the housing crisis. Photograph: iStock
John Moran, of the new Land Development Agency, and Orla Hegarty of UCD address the housing crisis. Photograph: iStock

Wild imaginings

Rough Magic’s production of Fergal McElherron’s Cleft is an intense emotional drama, set on a harsh remote island. Digging deep into the will to survive, you’re guaranteed to come away thoughtful and moved. Shows at Galway before heading on to the Kilkenny Arts Festival too, July 22nd – 27th. Tickets from €22.

Fergal McElherron’s Cleft
Fergal McElherron’s Cleft

Inside opera

Irish National Opera’s Orfeo was a wow at Galway last year. This year the company premiere Least Like the Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy. Piecing together heavily redacted materials from the archives, the opera explores the tragic story of the forgotten Kennedy sister – by Brian Irvine and Netia Jones, with Fergus Sheil conducting, July 15th – 20th. Tickets from €30.

Least Like the Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy
Least Like the Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy

Room to improve?

Enda Walsh’s Rooms have been teasing, intriguing, and possibly provoking nightmares at the festival for the past five years. Soon there’ll be enough of them for a whole house of pain (and drama). This year, for the sixth instalment, the voice of Aoife Duffin narrates the innermost thoughts of a character in the Waiting Room. July 15th – 28th, every 20 minutes. €7.

Enda Walsh’s Rooms have been teasing, intriguing, and possibly provoking nightmares at the festival for the past five years
Enda Walsh’s Rooms have been teasing, intriguing, and possibly provoking nightmares at the festival for the past five years

Beggars belief

Based on John Gay’s 1728 The Beggar’s Opera, updated almost 300 years later by Kneehigh; Dead Dog in a Suitcase is a musical, theatrical extravaganza of wit, wonder and weirdness. The live music includes trip hop, punk, grime, new wave, noir and, with some classical in the mix too, there must be something for everyone – except the under 14s, as strong language is also promised. July 16th – 20th, from €22.

Classy crooner

He’s made so many deliciously cheesy favourites, and his songs have been recorded by everyone from Barbara Streisand to Elvis Costello, Frank Sinatra to The Beatles. Now the man himself, Burt Bacharach plays the Festival on July 22nd. Want tickets? You don’t need to Say A Little Prayer, Walk On By, or even Know The Way to San Jose. Just cough up €59.50 and take your seats. Anyone Who Had a Heart would surely do the same.

Burt Bacharach plays Galway International Arts Festival this year.
Burt Bacharach plays Galway International Arts Festival this year.

Galway International Arts Festival, August 15th-28th giaf.ie



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