Galway Arts Festival is Ireland’s largest international arts festival. Founded in 1978 it has grown into an event with a significant reputation where, in 2010, there were 158,000 attendances at 273 performances, talks and exhibitions in 25 venues over 14 days. The Festival showcases a wide variety of international artists alongside the best of Irish talent and includes music (popular, contemporary, jazz, world, classical and traditional), theatre (indoor and outdoor), visual arts, dance, talks, discussions, family events and comedy in its programme.
The Festival has consolidated its reputation nationally and internationally and continues to develop its profile through the international media and attracts 27% of its audience from abroad. It has developed a profile within the ‘festival world’ where it now is viewed as operating on an international circuit, with a reputation equal to that of much larger international festivals.
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The Festival has contributed hugely to placing Galway firmly on the map as both a key cultural centre for the arts and cultural tourism destination. In addition the Festival has founded and acted as a seedbed for a number of well known and established arts organisations in Galway.
Highlights from the programme from 2008-2010 included, Primal Scream, Philip Glass, New York Dolls, David Gray, David Byrne, Brad Mehldau, Blondie, Rich Hall, Kronos Quartet, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Bon Iver, David Hockney, Joni Mitchell, Henri Matisse, Tommy Tiernan, Spike Jonze and Reginald D Hunter amongst others. Visiting international theatre and dance companies have included John Mahoney and Northlight Theatre, The Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, Steppenwolf, Michael Clark Dance Company, Hofesh Shechter Dance Company, The Abbey Theatre, Druid Theatre Company and the Bristol Old Vic and the Festival also present traditional music concerts in large-scale and intimate settings, and large scale street spectacle from Royal de Luxe to the annual Macnas Festival Parade.