Tents and events as the city throws itself headfirst into festival fever

As a kid, I used to love when the circus came to town. Early one morning, there would be the ping-ping ping of the tent pegs being driven into the ground in The Green, just behind my home house in Ballinrobe. We would go to school excited with the thought that by the time we ran home at lunchtime across the town for a quickly-consumed dinner (dinner in the middle of the day people, you see ), the town park would have been transformed into something colourful and magical and so very different from the nothingness that was normally there.

This week, as I look out the window of my office here at the Advertiser in Eyre Square in the heart of the city, I hear more ping-pings and like my circus memories, they too are signifiers of excitement ahead. Down below us, the construction of the Galway International Arts Festival Festival village is underway at the top of the Square.

Already, there are many people in and around town, touting, pitching, inspiring and entertaining as the Galway Film Fleadh got underway this week. It has a splendid line-up of events, good to see that new Director of Programming Maeve McGrath has continued the fine tradition established in the previous three decades and is developing it further into one of the continent’s more regarded film festivals. The role of the creative media in this country is often understated, but thankfully that is changing. Galway has always been fortunate to have been a hotbed of ideas and talent, and the arrival of new academic infrastructure encouraging this is to be welcomed.

No sooner will the Fleadh end late next week, but the Arts Festival gets underway with another great line-up — John Crumlish and Paul Fahy and their teams have once again excelled with their programme, and this will help shine a spotlight on the city in the midst of summer.

Of course, then when the Arts festival ends, we are flung headlong into the madness that is the Galway Races summer meeting.

Between them, all our festivals create a heartbeat for the city that sustains it for the summer months. A tone of activity is set. We have just to think back a few years to have a sense of what city life was like without these mainstays. The empty streets, the sense that something should be happening when it wasn’t. The lack of activity at that time reminded us all of just how much of a constant they have become — and how much we have to do to ensure that they stay running and viable and get our support through being attendees or even just advocates of the need for new spaces for these festivals to occupy.

Of course, the clockwork-like staging of these festivals also reminds us of the passing of time; of how as soon as the Races end, the year seems to be sprinting to its endline, and the ping ping of the construction of the ferris wheel at the Christmas market rings out over mulled wine and hot mince pies.

Time flies and it travels quicker when we are enjoying life. It only drags when we are not. Given the choice, we would probably opt for the former.

Embrace Galway’s summer, not just the ones above, but the events in all our towns and villages. After our experience of recent years, it is great to be able to.


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