The learn. The Galway Arts Festival takes place

The Key
Cultural event of 2017 that I have chosen to write about is the Galway International
Arts Festival. I have Chosen this Cultural event because it is something that I
have heard about in passing yet don’t really know what it involves, so I used
this opportunity to properly learn.

 

The Galway
Arts Festival takes place in Galway, Ireland, which is a city in Ireland that
has an extremely rich culture varying from theatre to music, and hence the
festival covers a range of different art forms. In 2017, over the course of two
weeks, 200 events took place in 33 venues with an attendance of 210,000. The
festival has been running for 40 years and this year (2018) it will be
celebrating their 41st year. The first ever Galway arts festival was
help between the sixth and twelfth of April, and was described by the Galway
Advertiser as; ‘ Galway’s Art Society; week of craic.’

According to the Galway
arts Festival’s website previous festival highlights include Brian Wilson, Joni
Mitchell, Bill Viola, The National, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, John
Grant, The Gloaming, Elvis Costello, John Gerrard, Hughie O’Donoghue, Sophie
Calle, Louise Bourgeois,  Marina
Abramovic, Steppenwolf, Royal Court, New York Theatre Workshop and Circa. The
festival is unique in the sense that it showcases various performers and
productions that are only new and upcoming but also well-known and widely
loved. GIAF also works regularly with leading Irish companies including Druid,
an Irish Theatre company which was set up in Galway itself and has now gone on
to achieve international and national success.

“With regard to Theatre,
Galway International Arts Festival also produces its own theatre, touring
both nationally and internationally.  The
organisation has produced or co-produced 15 productions in the last five years
and, with its co-producing partners, has toured to London, Paris, New York,
Edinburgh, Chicago, Adelaide, Sydney, Hong Kong and Washington”.

In 2017, similar to all
previous years there was a wide array of events to attend of all different
categories, one of the reasons why this festival is so particularly unique; as
unlike other big festivals held in Ireland, such as for example: forbidden
Fruit, St. Patricks day Festival, Dublin Film Festival, it offers attendees a
wide range of types of events to attend rather than just one main one for
example music, then with different acts. The Galway Arts Festival offers;
comedy, talks, spectacle, Theatre &Opera, Music and Visual Art. The
Organisation for the GIAF, by creating this festival has significantly put
Galway on the map. Not only as a key hub for the arts and culture but also this
festival has made Galway’s a prime spot for tourists to be immersed with all
things culture, on top of the beautiful scenes from the wild Atlantic way which
was already a popular choice for tourists. In 2017, the Galway Arts Festival
produced a variety of artists such as The Coronas, Saint Sister and The Power
of Words to name a few. GIAF’s Chief Executive is John Crumlish and its
Artistic Director is Paul Fahy.

 

 

With regards to funding,
the Galway art festival is a non-profit organisation and a registered charity
and hence all of the money generated from each year goes towards the production
for the next year’s festival. This money would go towards the likes of bulbs
for a set, costumes and also flights for artists flying over internationally for
example, however in saying this, it is also to be noticed that over 25% of the
festival’s programme is free. As the aim of this festival is for there not to
be any restrictions for those who want to enjoy or get involved with the arts.
It now looks forward to playing a central role in the European Capital of
Culture imitative as Galway was the destination for Europe’s Cultural Capital
in 2020. The funders and partners of GIAF are; NUI Galway, Ulster Bank, Failte
Ireland, Wild Atlantic Way, The Arts Council and Galway 2020.

 

From the
16-29 July 2018 the 41st year of the Galway International Arts
Festival will take place, where it was announces that Irish Alternative rock
band Walking on Cars will play at Live at the big top, while more acts are
going to be announces in late December or early January.

 

 

With
regards to policy I will be focusing on Culture Irelands strategy for the years
of 2017 leading up to 2020 in relation to the Galway Arts Festival I will then
talk about the European Culture Capital Initiative of 2020 in relation to
Galway also.

The
mission statement of the idea, in its most basic form is to promote Irish art,
to increase career opportunities for Irish artists and to also cement and
strengthen Ireland’s global profile and reputation through the arts. There are
seven actions in this policy.

The first
action is to provide resources such as funding, expert advice and promotional
supports to the different Irish Art and cultural events nationally. This act
would ensure for example that funding would be delivered to whichever platform
necessary in the event taking place. It would also make sure of maintenance and
upkeep of social media sites. With regards to the Galway, as some platforms of
the event could be in more need of funding that others as well this would be
helpful as the more promotion the festival receives the wider of an audience it
will have.

The second
act is to showcase uniquely curated Irish art, Irish artists and to provide
networking opportunities at key events, festivals, in Ireland and to
programmers and providers. This act not only ensures effective promotion but it
also means the ability to track and evaluate the outcomes of performances. The Galway
Arts festival is one of the many examples of this second act in Ireland, as it showcases
some of Irelands most unique and rich talent and talented Irish Artists. Similarly
this act makes it available for organisers to see what did well maybe in others
years and what didn’t so in future years, the festival will be able to produce
what the target audience really like.

The third
act is to work with research organisations and to deliver key cultural
objectives by working closely with Ireland’s cultural hubs on an annual funding
basis. This act enable the working with resource bodies such as Irish theatre
institute, dance Ireland and music networks, all organisations which have global
reach and will further opportunities for Irish artists abroad.

The fourth
action is to strengthen Irelands International profile through government and
state promotion. This act also means the engagement with government supported
cultural centres abroad and with Irish foundations and associations. An example
of government and state promotion is when Michael D. Higgins the president of
Ireland, wrote a personal letter to The Galway Arts Festival which was featured
on their website.  In this letter he gave
nothing but praise towards the festival, how they had gone from strength to
strength and how it has “…sought to give witness to the power of creative
exploration”. Through this letter (and the power of governmental promotion)
anyone would be more willing to go to the festival, more so tourists.

The fifth
action is to advise and assist the minister for arts, heritage, regional, rural
and Gaeltacht affairs in working with creative Ireland but to also to maximise
the government investment in the wider interests throughout the country. Action
5 ensures close working with the arts council (one of giaf’s funding partners)
with regards to grant funding and international promotion of the arts.

The sixth
action is to maximise and help promote international cultural relationships and
research in new global opportunities. This act would include attending a broad
range of cultural industry events to evaluate trends, and to also measure and analyse
audience attendance to inform for future funding. In relation to the Galway
Arts festival, many relationships internationally have been formed, as the Galway
arts fest is not solely a festival celebrating national arts but one alike many
festivals which inhabits talent from all over. Examples of acts coming over
include the New York Theatre, blah, blah. Similarly some of the productions
successes have led to theatre productions from the festival touring
internationally to places such as Sidney, Edinburgh. By touring internationally
this will help raise awareness of not only the success of the festival but also
making other countries aware of what we have to offer her in Ireland.

The final
and seventh action is to make a global footprint through culture Ireland and
creating a digital presence for target markets. The Galway Arts festival has achieved
this in the sense that they have a main website which ranges in information
such as the history of the festival to the programme of the next festival. It
is also referenced on many Irish tourist websites such as the Galway tourism
website, discover Ireland as well as triavgo. It also has an email which will
send frequent newsletters while also having an Instagram, Facebook and twitter
page which are all easily accessible and means that one could keep up with all
notifications and proceedings of the festival. This last action is extremely
important as now that we are in a digital era, most people are using their
phones and other devices to keep updated.

As I
mentioned earlier on Galway has been awarded the home of the European Capital
of Culture for 2020 along with Rijeka (Croatia). The European Capital of
Culture Initiative was developed in 1985 and has since been awarded to over
fifty cities who are members of the European Union. The Initiatives’ aims are
to highlight the diversity and richness of culture across Europe, celebrate the
common features shared in culture across Europe, and Increase the sense of
belonging for European citizens to a common cultural area and to foster the
contribution of culture to the development of Cities.

 

This is
also an amazing opportunity as it raises the international profile of cities,
boosts tourism, breathes a new life into cities and enhances the city in the
eyes of its own citizens. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is
most rewarding that Galway has been chosen to represent Ireland to showcase the
world its creative and cultural aspects. With regards to thoughts on being the awardees
for this initiative, the GIAF, shares on their website that Galway is “…a place where people come for a week and stay for good, a place where
artists are inspired and people find their place.”

 

With regards to theory then, realistically the basis of policy is on
theory. So fundamentally in this circumstance the theory is with regards to
funding, promotion, international profile and government involvement in the
cultural spectre. The way I understand theory is as a sort of cycle with
regards to policy, as without theory there is nothing for policy to rely on. I
have focused this way of thinking in relation to my key event as I focused on
my key event in relation to policy. The Galway Arts Festival is unique in the
sense that it has many diverse art forms which are both inclusive and exclusive
as well as creating an impressive cultural profile for Ireland. But what is the
theory behind this? Are we naïve enough to think that the theories of funding
and promoting of the arts is solely for the purpose of having a more diverse
culture and to enhance Ireland’s Cultural profile? The theory which seems most
evident to me with regards to this and many other Irish cultural events is
financial aid. The theory that this is the funding that is given towards the
likes of the Galway arts festival will eventually pay off when tourism in that
set location boosts with a 50% increase for example as because at the end of
the day by creating networking, and high end promotions and also having
Irelands international profile as a place with a ‘deeply rich and unique
culture’, you are turning Irelands culture into a commodity, a sales pitch for tourists
who will then visit Ireland, boost the economy and hence the cycle will repeat
again. It is clear that really the theory of it all is on the basis and the
stability of the Irish Economy.

 

One of the reading, which I think further this theory was from the
reading list; Whither Cultural Policy in Post Celtic Tiger Ireland. It talks
about how when the economy was flourishing during the Celtic tiger, the arts
council and the government were able to fund the arts a lot more heavily than
in contrast to when the economy flopped and the levels of funding severally
dropped. The Celtic tiger was from 1994-2008 – “Between 1994 and 2008, Arts
Council funding rose by 40%” (slabey), which was fantastic that the arts were
being so heavily funded but then in contrast, as soon as things went south “…
it was announced that the overall cultural expenditure would be reduced by just
under 10%, the Arts Council’s grant by 12% and the budget of the national
cultural institutions by 20%”. From this reading it sounds as though, because
the funding was reduced, it gives of the idea, that the government or whomever it
was who decided to make these cuts only saw the arts and culture as a leisure.
Like in the sense I would only by myself coffee if I had the money to spend but
not if I was broke. So therefore it is my opinion that the theory behind these cultural
events in unfortunately to benefit the economy.